Sunday, June 25, 2006

Looks like Five Rivers developer is the one who's really out of step

This morning’s Oshkosh Northwestern featured a rather in-depth piece by Alex Hummel looking at why the Five Rivers Resort proposal failed in Oshkosh even before it got off the ground. In the article, Hummel’s research confirms exactly what most of us have been saying all along: that it is not at all uncommon or out of the norm in the development world - at least where public dollars are at stake – to require financing commitment upfront before giving someone a developer’s agreement and letting them break ground.

The piece highlights two examples of somewhat similar projects, whose developers were required to follow essentially the same kinds of requirements by their communities as Five Rivers developer Tom Doig was being asked to do so here. And I know that Alex Hummel – or anyone else doing research on this – could find dozens more examples to show Oshkosh’s approach to the financing requirements of this project was not at all out of step with the development and banking worlds, as Doig stated in his now infamous pull-out letter of two weeks ago.

Doig insists he will build his project elsewhere, and in the manner he believes is the norm: by getting a signed developer’s agreement from a community first, with no up-front equity or financing; and apparently because he thinks communities are so desperate for development that they will buy into his resort concept: hook, line and sinker, with no regard for their taxpayers. As I have said many times before, I wish him well in finding that community, but I don’t think it will be in this lifetime. Municipal budgets are tighter than ever and he’s going to find as many, if not more, restrictions and requirements elsewhere as he did here in Oshkosh.

Meanwhile, I know there are some out there who want to call those of us who questioned this project and gave it closer scrutiny than many of our own Common Council members, “cobblestoners” or “naysayers,” when most of us really just wanted was to see the project done properly and with consideration given to the taxpayers’ interests. In the end, that was the concern that ruled the day, but Doig need look no further than himself to see why the project failed. He was unable or unwilling to make good on his promises and he was not forthcoming with information to the public, who was expected to be his “partner” in this development. He even kept those willing to finance most of the construction in the dark about his “deal” with the city. Perhaps in some respects we should thank Mr. Doig. It was his attitude and actions that caused him to leave the table - promising to build his “personal dream” somewhere else; and saving Oshkosh from the “Great White Elephant Resort.”

- Cheryl Hentz