Monday, June 22, 2015

For Restaurant Row, Dessert is Served First

It appears that the City of Richardson is now the proud owner of a row of restaurants along US 75 north of Spring Valley Rd. Well, not actually owner. Instead the city is just putting up the money. Someone else will actually own the restaurants and make money off of them.
Hermansen was the recipient of a very generous deal with the city. Richardson gave him a grant for the full purchase price of the five-acre tract – $2.2 million. In addition, the city will provide up to $1.2 million in grants to pay for infrastructure costs.

$3.4 million for a few restaurants. Imagine the city buying a half dozen McMansions and giving them away. No, I can't either. But businesses are in a different reward level than residents. Elite. Or Premier. Or Platinum. In any case, they get free perks from the city to do business in our city.

Add this $3.4 million to the sweet deal given to RealPage to move into the office space being vacated by State Farm. Add that to the really sweet deal of $47 million given to the Palisades developer. Then add all that to the really, really sweet deal of $117 million given to CityLine. To paraphrase former Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL), a million here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking real money.

Reader challenge: fifty points to whomever can name the biggest private development in Richardson in recent years to be done without any public money.

Some will say that it's all good because the city gets the money back in tax revenues. In the extreme version of this argument, it assumes the property would never be developed at all without economic incentives. In a self-fulfilling prophecy sort of way, that may even be true. Given how free the city is with economic incentives, if you were a developer, you'd have to be crazy to do business in Richardson without requiring an economic incentive.

Perhaps the biggest problem with such deals is that there is so little public accounting for them.
Richardson -- unlike other cities -- approves such deals with little public scrutiny. The council authorizes City Manager Dan Johnson to negotiate these agreements within certain parameters. Later, when negotiations are complete, the agreements are quietly signed by Johnson and the developer, without being discussed or approved in a council meeting.
This practice really does give these deals the look and feel of backroom deals made out of the public eye. It's the public who, of course, ends up paying for them. Even if everything is on the up-and-up, it still looks bad. Pecan pie and coffee, anyone? It's on the house.

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