Entries Tagged 'Developers' ↓

HUGE FAIL! $27 million Federal tax dollars and rail traffic in Downtown Sioux Falls will remain almost the same

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The cold hard truth about the RR relocation project

Yesterday at the informational meeting there was an update on the RR relocation project. And while the switching yard will move outside of town (that is why we are getting ten acres of land) it was confirmed by planning staff that rail traffic will remain ‘almost’ the same.

I guess when the environmental study was done, BNSF explained that while the longer trains will not be switching cars for smaller deliveries downtown anymore with Eastern and Ellis, that those deliveries will still have to be made Downtown. Planning described it as ‘Smaller trains, but more frequent traffic’.

I went to the city council meeting last night, and during public input I expressed my disappointment in how this project has really changed from its original intent, which was to close the switching yard downtown AND reduce rail traffic. In fact, it could get worse with more frequent train traffic.

Not sure where the train went off the tracks with this project (no pun intended) but it seems the feet dragging and delay after Huether took office may have affected the final result. It was no secret that Huether was cock blocking the project so talk of an Events Center downtown could be quelled. The ten acres would have made a perfect spot for a parking lot for a downtown EC. In fact many still burning from the sting of that whole fiasco have argued that is all that property is good for, besides a public park. As I expressed last night, you won’t be able to build residential, and retail may be questionable also. Besides the noise of the more frequent trains running along the development land, the close proximity to the river could flood the Southern edge of the development. There has been talk about making the area a ‘quiet zone’ which requires crossbars on the street, but as I have understood Federal law on that, there will still have to be some kind of (audio) warning system in place. And even if the whistles are NOT blowing the rattle and clank of trains is loud enough.

Of course all of my whining really is coming to late. Our media really failed pointing out the reality of this project, the only journalist willing to say anything in agreement with me is Johnathan Ellis, and he gets chided for it.

This project is a HUGE FAIL for Federal Tax payers, a HUGE FAIL for downtown commuters and soon it will become a HUGE FAIL for local tax payers once we will be all standing around holding the bag for a piece of property we paid $27 million for that at most, probably will sell for around $4-5 million, AFTER we clean it up.

This is prime example of how pathetic government can really be with our money.

 

Does BNSF owe us an explanation?

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While there has been a lot of talk about what kind of development that is being done on the old rail yard, there has been very little talk about how rail traffic will proceed once the project is turned over to developers.

We know 3 things for certain;

• Two tracks will remain in the same place DT next to the BNSF building that will also remain. A fence will be built between the line and property that will be developed.

• All the old staging area will not be used anymore (that’s the new development land).

• Two siding tracks are being built out of town.

What we don’t know is how much traffic will remain DT, will it be more or less, or will it get spread around over to Cliff Avenue? I think within a year the city and BNSF need to supply the citizens of Sioux Falls a ‘rail plan’ DT and just what traffic will look like and projected volumes.

A developer recently told me ‘I was wrong’ when it came to the rail traffic DT increasing after the rail yard closes. So prove me wrong, call up your BFF, Mayor Mike, and ask him to present a rail traffic plan to those who live and work DT. If the rail traffic becomes minimal, than it will truly be exciting.

Another consultant, the RR relocation project burn barrel just got bigger

Here we go, seems no one in city government is smart enough to know what to do with 10 acres of undeveloped land downtown, even though developers and the city have been successfully developing projects downtown for over 100 years now;

“The City is hiring a consultant to work with us to ensure the redevelopment of this land is done in the best way possible,” says Mike Cooper, Director of Planning and Building Services. “Most cities never have this type of opportunity—to reshape the heart of their downtown—so we want to make sure we get it right.”

I’ve said the best way to develop the land would be to let free enterprise shape it. Once BNSF hands over the keys to the property in 2017, we drive down to ACE hardware and pick up a couple of FOR SALE signs and stick them in the ground.

Why should the taxpayers be on the hook for even more expenditures cleaning up the site, and coming up with proposals. Wasn’t the $27 million of Federal tax dollars enough? Especially since the tracks and traffic are really going NO WHERE. What kind of grand development ideas is the consultant going to have? You can’t build residential because the trains will still be rolling through, maybe even more often.

This sounds like another back door scam so that certain developers get their hands on the land by shaping the RFP’s in advance to fit their already conceived ideas. I say put it for sale, let the adjacent property owners have first dibs, and if they decline open it up to other developers. We aren’t building a resort in the Cayman Islands, we are taking a brown field, scraping the top layer off and making it available for someone to build on. This isn’t rocket science and certainly not worth the expense of a consultant.

I still maintain that since we did nothing to limit the traffic of trains downtown by moving forward on this project, we have accomplished nothing but blowing $27 million dollars as BNSF walks away with a gigantic smile on their face. You’re welcome Mr. Buffet.

 

Sioux Falls City Councilor Rex Rolfing still delusional about public input

Rex just doesn’t seem to get it, even when it is explained to him in simple terms. Right before the joint Minnehaha County/Sioux Falls City Council meeting, Rex and Commissioner Chair Cindy Heiberger were having a short conversation about public input before the meeting (they were unaware their microphones were hot).

 

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For the most part, well over 50% of public input deals with property and individual rights which could effect them financially and their livelihoods.

Some one really needs to sit councilor Rolfing down and explain to him that in a democracy we are all ruled equally, with no special classes. If developers, pipeline builders and railroads are allowed to talk as long as they want about their projects, Joe Smith should be allowed to talk just as long about his garage expansion. Equality is one thing that makes our country great.

Who will replace Darrin Smith? Or will there be a replacement?

While studying the city management salary increases over the past five years, we came across some interesting title changes. People were hop-scotching back and forth between the public works department and engineering. Not sure if this had to do with pay adjustments or what. It kind of looked like an accounting game.

Either way, there seems to be a discussion going on similar in the community development office. Will Darrin Smith have to be replaced or will restructuring of the department eliminate a Czar of community development?

With the new council rolling in, and the change of rules when appointing department heads (council must also approve the mayoral appointment of the director, no matter the size of the department). Could be interesting to see what kind of extra duties some of the other directors may have to take on to avoid a mayoral appointment.

Of course this wouldn’t be the first time the mayor would be playing hard and fast with the rules.

Huether is at it again, Saber rattling for another unneeded project

You would think with all the silliness going on with the administration building the last thing Huether and his minions would want to do is push for a project by claiming it is a done deal before it is;

Project backers of a $40 million hotel, retail and residential facility as well as a public parking ramp known as The Banks are no longer pursing the downtown venture, citing higher than expected construction costs. As a result, the city intends to move ahead with the parking portion of the plan – a 600 space parking garage – as a standalone project at 110 E 10th Street where a surface parking lot sits.

Except, once again they are leaving out the finer details of ‘moving ahead’ like the administration building;

The contract with the construction manager – still being negotiated – and project financing will require council approval before any work begins on the parking ramp.

That’s right, the city council still has to approve bonding from the parking’s enterprise funds before any work can start. Remember those parking rate increases passed recently? They were pushed through to pay for bond payments on a new parking ramp. Now a parking ramp we don’t need. Once again, the administration got the cart before the horse, and we are all paying for it.

We don’t need another parking ramp. We should have thought of all this before selling a fully functional one for $1.

BOOM! Plop. pfoof

Darrin Smith’s batting average lately hasn’t been to good;

The city said Thursday that private investors have backed out of a planned $40 million downtown project that would have included loft apartments, retail and a boutique hotel.

“The hotel and apartment folks have informed us recently that it’s not financially feasible for them to continue,” Sioux Falls Community Development Director Darrin Smith said.

So why in the Hell would we move forward on a $10 million dollar parking ramp without a leasing tenant? Wait until we get an interested party, then build the ramp. Or better yet, don’t build a ramp at all and let private development take care of private development, and tax dollars take care of citizen projects, like maintaining the roads.

Mike and Darrin have this great desire to spend tax money on unneeded projects. The new council is probably going to be working with smoking brakes until the end of Mike’s term.

UPDATE: Is the City of Sioux Falls set to ask for another taxpayer handout for more buildings we don’t need?

UPDATE: Imagine my shock and awe when I found out today that the city is proposing exactly what I suggested, a long term lease with a private hotel, instead of a financial partnership. But before I whistle and clap, I have a feeling this RFP changed once the city realized their borrowing power may be decreasing. Either way, we get another hotel and boring hotel restaurant on the dismal side of town.

Darrin Tiffilicious is set to ask for more taxpayer money tomorrow for another private entity, I’m guessing;

A hotel and restaurant are soon to be built on the southeast side of Elmwood Golf Course. Come to this news conference to learn the franchise of the hotel, the brand of the restaurant, and to see renderings of a development ready to break ground this year.

A few years ago when this plan was first hatched, it was mentioned that taxpayers would be fronting the money for a hotel on city land by Elmwood golf course. I’m guessing this has not changed. While I agree we probably could use another hotel in that area, I question the past proposed plan where we would be asking taxpayers to build the hotel then share revenue with a private management partner. I think a more prudent plan would be for a private partner to build their own hotel, and lease the property from the city, keeping taxpayers off the hook for profit and loss and paying for the structure.

I guess we will have to wait and see the details tomorrow, but like the half built aquatic center and the proposed administration building, I’m guessing taxpayers will be asked to bond for this project also. I think this kind of partnership goes to far and I hope the new council rejects any plans to fleece taxpayers for a private project like this. Indoor public pools are one thing, but publicly subsidized hotels goes to far, especially when this city lags in affordable housing.

Like I said though, the devil is in the details.

I wouldn’t want either across the street from me

Some times you have to make sacrifices if you want to live in a certain part of town, or should you? I live in the landing flight pass of the airport, 2 blocks from where hospital helicopter takes off from, 4 railroad tracks, several bars and casinos and a busy arterial street. But I like my location and my mortgage payment, so I drown out the noise.

These neighbors seem to be arguing over whether they want a plastic or metal trash can next to their homes;

A Sioux Falls man says his business neighbor is in clear violation of city zoning rules.

Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc. is a salvage yard, Bernie Schmidt says, an industrial-grade business that doesn’t belong next to a residential neighborhood.

The city says the 11-acre business is a “vehicle storage and auction facility,” fully compliant with rules for a light industrial zone and capable of harmonious coexistence with residential neighbors.

The distinction is important: Salvage yards aren’t permitted in light industrial zones. Wholesaling and manufacturing facilities are.

Kind of sounds like they are splitting hairs. Inoperable vehicles sitting in a ‘yard’ kind of makes it a ‘salvage’ yard. Either way, I wouldn’t want to live door to neither.

But the interesting part of the story is how the county and city look at things differently;

City officials say Tiede’s ruling isn’t binding for the city, which uses different zoning language than the county.

This happens quite often, and the city often bucks the county to get their way. I wish the neighbors luck.

Councilor Jamison was only $2.1 million off the mark when it comes to the new city admin building

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Remember when Greg threw out a ‘hypothetical’ number;

Imagine my surprise (as well as the mayor’s) when councilor Jamison threw the $24 Million number out there last night at the city council meeting (FF to the construction manager at risk discussion towards the end). It was pretty obvious from the Mayor’s reaction (he literally flipped out on councilor Jamison for putting it out there) that Greg may not be to far off the mark, or someone within the city or private development gave him the numbers.

Well the hammer dropped on the actual cost of the building today at the informational, without a lot of explanation as to why we need it (and underground parking).

While I have still been seething about the ignorant Republicans and cowardice Democrats for voting for a sales tax increase (then turning around and voting for another possible one on municipalities) in the state legislature, I am still baffled why this building is needed. Well let the SF Twitter feed explain;

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Apparently the City’s Fleet Vehicles drive themselves?