Monday, May 08, 2006

Mission: Demolition

The city voted 5-4 to tear down the old gas station on Main Street. This was quite a surprise. They haven't heard if they've been approved for any grant funds, they were told by the state that saving the building might still be an option that could get funding, and they had a purchase offer on the table to cover some of the remediation costs.

But this group has other plans. And what might those plans be? A prediction is that we will all be hearing about some development plan that just happens to be ready for this site. But why wouldn't a potential developer just come forward and make their intentions known to help council with the decision to demolish? Two words: Tax Break.

Can you imagine how hard it would be to get council to agree to tear down the building if the decision were presented this way:

Either you vote to demolish this building and let a hole in the ground sit there for a year until you turn it over for one dollar to a developer that won't pay any taxes
You vote to remediate the building and sell it for thousands of dollars to a
developer that will reuse it and pay taxes on it

How would you convince a majority of the people to vote for the first option? Instead you have to tell them that it's a much different picture. Something like this:
Either you spend $100,000 today to fix the building and sell it to a group that you don't know or you spend $50,000 today to tear it down and stop thinking about it until someone you do know comes around to take it off your hands.

What they did was premature, impatient, irresponsible, and will be expensive.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

All We Need Is Just a Little Patience

Why is patience a virtue? Does it prove that you can endure seemingly mundane tasks with grace and poise? Does it help you to learn that 'the best things in life are worth waiting for'?

I think patience is a virtue because patience prevents you from making hasty, convenient, and downright bad decisions.

So how does patience relate to the current state of Geneva's affairs? Read tonight's headlining story to find out.

The basic idea is this: It will cost $295,000 to get rid of the contamination in the Main Street gas station (see "A Building of Interest" post from January). It will cost about $100,000 to tear it down. So, it looks like city council will take the lower number.

But is the lower cost option really the lowest cost in the long run? Not upon closer inspection.

The $100,000 will take down the building. Then the soil underneath will be exposed. The place used to be a gas station, so you can bet that the soil will need some serious immediate treatment. Then there's the claim that the side of that slope (remember that the building has another entire floor beneath the street level) is in need of stabilization, especially if all of the concrete that's there now as part of the building is removed. How much is that going to cost? Then we'll be left with a big drop off along the side of Main Street. Maybe they'll fill it in (an additional cost) and seed it? Still, it will be a grassy area overlooking the backs of those Seneca Street buildings. I suppose you can't put a price tag on that. And let's not forget that a big municipal hole (or maybe grassy spot) is not taxable. The lot won't even be a standard building lot size, so it won't be attractive to future developers, unless there is some larger scheme in the works to demolish the whole block, but that seems even worse.

On the other hand, $295,000 spent now would yield a gutted, asbestos-free building ready for renovation. There have been many groups interested in buying it, and you know what? A private owner would pay taxes on it. So the $295,000 is an investment. Plus, the city has applied for numerous grants to help pay the cost.

Think about it this way: If you need a new roof, would you think it wise to pay $2000 today for a roof that will last one year, or $8000 today for a roof that's guaranteed for 25 years? I think only a fool would choose the former, especially if you were going to get an Energy Star grant to pay 1/2 of the cost.

So it seems, to use a well-known cliche, "haste makes waste" and in this case, it's taxpayer money being wasted. And since wasting what you have is always looked upon as a sin, it's easy to see why patience (taking the long view on a decision) is truly a virtue.