DENNIS terHORST: Reader believes development will not move Manistee forward


If you like crony economics, you can enjoy it here in Manistee.

The Oleson’s store site development is an effort with good initial intent that sprang forth as an immaculate conception from the office of AES (Alliance for Economic Success). Together with an eager city management and a developer, a new senior center became an $8 million housing/retail complex.

These entities have been unencumbered with the governance protocol that manages these developments. To wit, Chapter 1489 of Manistee’s codified ordinances. But, its repeal has had its first reading and its second and final reading is Tuesday — a fitting anticlimax to the principal’s original intent.

It included basic guidelines like determining need and desire for a development, as well as, appropriate and desirable siting. It also provided for a minimum PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) of 10 percent of net rent revenue. But city management claimed these protections for assuring need, aesthetics consideration, tax-base preservation and taxpayer protection were “too restrictive.” Hence, its repeal.

Likewise, the Planning Commission and council failed to consult these guidelines when they were still in place. There were no statistical analyses applied to the guidelines of 1489, but there was plenty of desire. Each public meeting oozed desire! Why is this?

Well, the the Council on Aging gets a new center they truly need that allows them to deliver their services. (That’s the motherhood and apple pie element). Then the developer gets their government money, tax credits and, essentially, a tax-free cash machine for decades. AES gets their management fee. And, city management can sport a feather in their cap. Conveniently, the average taxpayer hasn’t been aroused to the dilution of his financial support of the city. Shh! Everybody, naturally, has a warm fuzzy feeling.

So, not a single negative vote has thus far been cast. Not a single independent mind has asked a difficult question! Sounds kinda crony, huh?

The sad part of the project is that highly desirable real estate is removed from the tax base for the next several human life times. The viewscape of the river and riverwalk, its proximity to Veteran’s Memorial Park and U.S. 31, and walkability to the central business district make the location prime property. The opportunity cost then, over decades, is huge.

Our near neighbors don’t seem to have a problem with valuing their waterfront property. They protect it for taxable development. When Ludington builds housing, they build condos around their harbor marina, likewise, with Charlevoix’s channel and Round Lake; not to mention Little Traverse Bay at Petoskey.

A community’s land use identifies its character. Its character perpetuates its future. Ludington, Charlevoix and Petoskey portray vibrancy, expendable income and economic opportunity. The Oleson’s property development perpetuates Manistee’s low income, senior/retiree existence. Economic growth will continue to bypass us.

If you don’t favor cronyism, and you believe this development will not move Manistee forward economically, call your council representative. Do it today!

Dennis terHorst


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