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Bob Geary on the Downtown South rezoning: City Council’s 3 shady moves that need to STOP

Bob Geary, resident of Raleigh’s District D, delivered the following comments about the Downtown South Project to City Council on Nov 4:

Mayor and Council – I want to make 3 points about the Downtown South Project.

This is a terrific site for development in South Raleigh, on a future Bus Rapid Transit route. It should be replete with affordable housing. Built at a neighborhood-scale to complement what’s around it.

That’s what it should be.

1.So, Point No. 1. Tax-increment grants. Once that Pandora’s box is opened, it will be very hard to close. Does every developer get one? Watch out that you don’t saddle the taxpayers with the customary costs that developers should pay and have always paid.

2.Point No. 2. Your Planning Commission is wrestling with Kane’s rezoning application. Listen to them. A project of this size should be a Planned Development with details about what will be built and where.

Kane’s application, though, has literally not a single detail. Instead, it asks for a maximum 40 stories across the entire site, which would let him build – or sell – for maximum profit. That’s fine, that’s what developers do.

But …

But in exchange, they customarily offer some amenities – some community benefits – in return for being allowed to build bigger, taller, with more profit, and more impact on city infrastructure.

Kane’s “plan” is a blank sheet, especially where the benefits should be.

Well, Kane is nothing if not audacious. He wants this giant entitlement first, and THEN he will  talk to the city about any community benefits if the taxpayers are willing to pay for them, and then only if he wants them.

He won’t pay for them. But he gets to say what they are?

To put it mildly, this is what you call bass ackwards. The benefits should be offered and agreed to first, before the rezoning is considered, and while the city still has leverage.

To do the reverse makes Kane all-powerful, and puts the taxpayers in the position of mere supplicants … coming hat in hand to ask, please, sir, could we have some affordable housing in your giant project?

And the answer, according to Kane’s spokesman Bonner Gaylord, is that No, you can’t have any affordable housing, or a library, or a community center, or anything else you might actually want — unless and until you’ve paid for – paid ME to build – MY stadium. Or, now it’s an amphitheater?

Anyway, it’s whatever Kane wants, at whatever price he exacts, because remember, you’ve already handed him the rezoning, so you’ve cut the ground out from under the community ENTIRELY.

In short, if Council does what Kane wants, it will betray the public trust and shut the door on citizens having a say.

3.And by the way, Point No 3: Where is the community in all of this?

Community engagement by Kane has been ephemeral at best.

Bonner says they haven’t negotiated with the community because Council told them not to.

It’s almost like the Mayor cut a sweetheart deal with Kane, and while WE’RE all trying to figure out whether Biden won or Trump, YOU ALL have been busy behind our backs.

QED.

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