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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Plainfield Council's message to developers: Don't come here looking to do business

Some of the overflow crowd that filled City Hall Library
for last night's special Council meeting. Seated at the table
(backs to camera) are Councilors Toliver and Storch.

Maybe Lenin was right.

In a famous book on how things don't develop in an easy, straight line fashion, he came up with the catchy title "One step forward, two steps back".

That seems to summarize Plainfield's development efforts.

With an overflow crowd at a special meeting of Plainfield's City Council Monday evening, twenty people spoke out passionately about the proposed 212-apartment South Avenue d

Most were for it, some were against and many had questions about details.

The five Council members present (Greaves, Storch, Toliver, Williams and Council President Rivers) listened courteously and attentively to all, some of whom were quite eloquent.

Among points made --
  • Developers are watching this project as an indication of what others might expect if they approach the city;

  • Local contractors and laborers need to be provided for in set-asides;

  • Parking provisions may not be adequate;

  • The public schools would not benefit with any tax revenues, though there is a high probability of some impact with some children living in the apartments.
There were also several points of misinformation --
  • One speaker thought the project called for 400 rental units (it's 212);

  • Another suggested the PILOT for the Park-Madison project was a failure (it's not);

  • Those pleading for set-asides evidently had not read the proposed agreement (which does include a provision for local set-asides).
Councilor Storch and Council President Rivers sparred briefly over whether Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Carlos Sanchez would be allowed to address some of these questions.

Rivers finally relented and Storch asked Sanchez about several issues, including why the 30-year term ("financing would only be available on a 30-year deal"), why the local set-aside was 10% ("the developer has sub-contractors that help him control his costs"), and whether the PILOT was essential ("without a PILOT, this $50 million project will not happen in Plainfield").

Rivers graciously consented to Mayor Adrian Mapp addressing the Council before the vote.

Mapp reiterated the arguments for the project, including that other developers are keeping an eye on how Plainfield handles this one as an indicator of future possibilities. He noted that local municipalities don't have the tools that other jurisdictions can use -- the only tool they have is a PILOT.

He also heaped scorn on unnamed "local developers" who wanted the City to give them two public parking lots as parcels on which to build, reminding everyone that in the project under consideration, this developer had assembled -- at his own coast -- the eleven subject properties into a parcel.

When the vote went down on the PILOT, it was defeated 3-2 with Rivers, Greaves and Toliver against, and Storch and Wiliams in favor.

So, unless there is a miracle, there will be no new apartments at Plainwood Square.

There will be no "walking wallets" shopping in the neighborhood.

There will be no construction jobs for anyone, black, white or Hispanic, local or not.

And that is that. The Council has spoken.

Plainfield takes one step forward, and two steps back.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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