Honorable people?

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2005

&uot;We are honorable people up here.&uot; So said Councilman Brown during the July 20 council meeting. No one would argue with that point, but being honorable doesn’t mean one is a clear thinker.

Many pro and con opinions, including Council’s about the Jefferson School are wide of the issue. (Tom J rolled over in his grave) It’s the small amount the developer is allowed to pay for the wreck; was the assessor the culprit, carrying it on the books at over half a million? Was that just an error, dumb, or don’t we sell at market value? I wouldn’t take less than assessed value for my home.

It just seems that one would pay far more than a $100,000 for an item in which he was going to invest $2 million. And if the building were demolished what is the value of that near an acre in the center of downtown? We gave away the Professional Building…what is it worth now? A gentleman in Norfolk just bought a beat up building assessed at $162,000. He paid a million for it because of the potential, just like here. Who gets the credit, or blame, for this deal?

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The story so far is that the developer gets it for a $100,000 or so, spends $2 million to create his dream, and sells the penthouses, maybe four, for $1 million each. Not bad. So most of the hue and cry is merely over how little he will pay and how much he can make.

And doesn’t it seem that city officials and council were years late getting in a hurry to sell? So what if the Cultural Center is completed years ahead of the Jefferson school restoration? We’ve lived with that high school eyesore for years hidden behind a perfectly good recreation center; we suffered the car wash for eons, and the empty Constance Wharf since 1800.

I don’t even know what an RFP is but I’ve heard from developers who are suspicious of this, particularly the way in which bids were sought.

But then our crop of developers has not always had the best interest of Suffolk at heart and the city claims all was done properly. So perhaps it’s just the money, the low price the developer will pay. Many, including some council members, are obviously not sure the LETTER of the law was adhered to…again, those perceptions of impropriety.

Hooray for Linda Johnson and Milteer who have suffered at the hands of Brown and Ralph. At the Council free-for-all they were castigated as unfairly as are most whistleblowers. Mr. Brown did not look in their direction when he condescendingly insisted the deal has been fairly consummated. And the mayor almost dripped a bit of venom when he suggested there was nothing further to discuss. Milteer threw Johnson a life ring when she appeared to be foundering and nearly slammed his fist on the table to get the vote postponed. Those two stalwarts may not be able to block the deal, but the city manager will rethink the methods of securing bids, and the assessing and pricing of city property.

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Are the floodgates opening south of town perhaps letting in a deluge of new property tax payers? Three thousand new residences were the numbers I heard and Mr. Milteer is not happy even with that amount. It looks like the airport growth is being considered so we won’t have idiots moving in close and later complaining about the noise. The future will require smaller jet airports and we have one.

Milteer is right in that homes breed both children and nearby businesses. They also breed schools and wouldn’t it be nice to return to the old neighborhood schools instead of dragging kids all over town, wasting busses, gasoline, dollars for drivers, to say nothing about the strain on the kids. So the iceberg of no/growth is slowly melting along Carolina Road as planners aim in that direction.

And our paid professional dreamer, Ray Gindroz, is also pointing his drawing board in the direction of further congesting downtown with residential growth. It may be because we have so many restaurants in place vying for foot traffic so bring them on. It will also pump up the Farmer’s Market and TGIF. But whenever planners say the phrase, &uot;key to bringing about revitalization of downtown,&uot; people wince. It usually means tear down &uot;old&uot; and rebuild with more expensive domiciles. Developing downtown is hardly a new idea…merchants have been begging for that for 10 years. The question boils down to who goes and who stays? Restored or new housing construction always means increased rent or purchase price. There are many living there now that can afford neither, so where do they go, or is that the idea? That eventually becomes a problem somewhere else. You know, &uot;but not in my backyard.&uot;

And why not more people? The downtown has been enhanced just about all it can be without further breaking taxpayers. We want those folks there to enjoy a wonderful life style. It’s obvious they can’t provide it on their own and that’s why we who live outside the ring have so generously given up many things we might want or need so they can use our tax dollars to enrich their surroundings. It’s only fair.

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist.