Saturday, November 14, 2015

Choosing the Bush . . .

This week the Utica Common Council rejected a purchase offer and specific housing proposal (that was touted before the election as evidence of Utica being "on the rise") in favor of the mere possibility that a much larger amount of money will be spent on a sports complex on the land across the street from the Auditorium.  What a difference a month makes!

I guess a "bird in the hand" is NOT "worth two in the bush."

Ultimately this may turn out good for Utica.  Between the noise and traffic of sporting events to the south and railroad tracks with speedy freight trains to the north, the site seemed an unlikely one for "market rate" housing -- and more likely to turn into the subsidized housing that previously occupied the site. That was clearly on the minds of the council members. Chalk one up for some common sense!

That said, the manner in which this unfolded is bad for Utica.
Rick Gefell, Purcell Construction Corp. business development director, said he was “blindsided” by the decision. “We were disappointed,” he said. “We expressed a good-faith proposal and in the 11th hour somebody else came in. There’s not much we can do about it but I guess we just have to wait and see.” 
The site had been vacant for 10 years, a developer comes in from out of town, spends time and money putting together a proposal for "market rate housing" -- something in which the city had expressed interest and had studies to demonstrate an existing market -- only to discover that "somebody else," unbeknownst to the general public, planned to turn the area into a sports themed district -- a plan that has no discernible details other than "sports," "45 to 60 million dollars,"  and that it involved that site.  (Does anyone see a pattern here?) And that vague plan by "somebody else" became the basis for the Council to reject the developer's proposal.

Prospective developers are sent the wrong message: "Beware, in Utica, the city's planning is done by those with an 'inside track'" -- in this case, the sports proponents.

Now at least one of the developers vying for the site is going to leave Utica on a sour note, because their time was wasted. . . . and others (especially outsiders who might bring in some new ideas) will be discouraged.

This sort of  "insider trading" had been a staple of Utica for years:  no wonder why people avoided Utica for so long . . . and just as interest finally picks up . . . this happens.

Utica needs to get its act together.  The fact that a sports facility can compete with a housing complex for the same parcel of land is crazy -- and demonstrates the unfinished nature of Utica's Master Plan.

It's time to finish the work of the Master Plan, and create a specific enough vision that both developers and the public can understand. No more wasted efforts.  No more surprises.   

Maybe then Utica will receive the PRIVATE investment it both wants and deserves.


Keith said...

Late last century I was running a manufacturing company in Utica. Next to us was a building which was city owned. The city left me with a key so prospective buyers could inspect the building. Eventually, the property came up for auction and I attended just to see who my new neighbors would be. A man who was part owner of the building I was leasing was the winning bidder. My thoughts, "OK I know he has put his own money on the line to benefit the city and himself." Later that day I received a call from the mayor (no names will be used) asking what I thought the building was worth. My reply, "Sir, the building is worth what someone is willing to pay." The Common Council rejected the bid. I heard that a Councilperson's relative had expressed an interest in the building. The bid was rejected and 2 years later the building was sold to a not-for-profit.
I'm glad I'm retired an not a property owner in Utica.

Anonymous said...

The area has been one of "insiders" for quite some time. There is not even a two party political system, most people do not vote at all, and many incumbents are never even challenged. The "insiders" basically feed off of taxpayers both directly and indirectly. This Utica example is a telling one. As we announce bars, restaurants and more coffee places, we deny housing. What good is any of development including sports complexes if people do not live in the city?

Too Funny said...

Strike I implore you to do some research on the study after study that shows subsidized "sports" places always screw the taxpayers just like is already happening with that comets debacle.

It's depressing to see that the same old crew is still doing the same old scams over and over. Now with a hospital and "sports fields" like anyone in their minds wants to be in Utica so they can participate in the trumped reindeer games.
When are people going to start calling these clowns out?

This is awful and there's no recalls or class action suits to stop this stupid crap.