Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Some council support still remains for Fiver Rivers. But why?

If the latest article on the proposed Five Rivers Resort in this morning’s Oshkosh Northwestern is any indication, it may be that even more support for the project by Oshkosh Common Council members is waning.

In the article Mayor Bill Castle is quoted as saying “It’s getting damn close” to the time when the city should pull the plug on this $60 million, 312-unit condominium-hotel-conference center project, for which approximately $16 million in tax incremental financing and developer assistance grant money would be provided to developer Tom Doig. But then again, didn't he make somewhat similar comments when an extension on the term sheet was requested, and approved, in March? Exactly when, and where, are we going to draw the line in the sand?
We already know where councilors Paul Esslinger and Dennis McHugh stand. They have stated publicly their opposition to the project continuing and Esslinger met with the city attorney Monday to draft a resolution, directing the city to end discussions with Doig. That resolution, which comes on the heels of Doig’s letter to the city last week threatening to pull out of the project unless certain conditions were met, will be on the agenda at next Tuesday’s council meeting.

Also at that meeting will likely be a resolution brought forward by the Community Development department to extend the deadline for the project to break ground.

Either resolution will need a simple majority of the council (4 members) in order to be approved. Esslinger and McHugh have made their feelings known; Bryan Bain said months ago he had lost confidence in the project and its developer and, in fact, voted against extending a deadline back in March already, so it is unlikely he will go along with yet another extension. Castle’s comments in the paper lead us to believe he could go either way with the project. He sounds like he’s fed up, but could just as easily be swayed to give Doig a little more time. It’s unclear where Deputy Mayor Burk Tower stands on the latest developments, though he agrees there are more questions than answers and has said the council still doesn’t understand how the financing of the project is going to work.

The two councilors who for sure still seem to be hanging in there with Doig are Shirley Mattox and Meredith Scheuermann – and the fact that they are makes me wonder exactly what they’re thinking and why. Mattox says she’s not one to “jump the gun,” but also wants to make sure things are in place and done right. Okay, I’m all for that – but the time for that has come and gone. Scheuermann’s comments were the ones most confusing – and, I think, disturbing.

She was quoted in this morning’s article as saying "I don't think we should stay the course, but I don't think we should dig our heels in so far that we're not willing to be global on this piece until the end.” I have read the statement several times and still don't know what she really means by that. She also said she’d like to get both the city and Doig back on the same page and iron out their differences. Frankly, I don’t see how that is possible.

After all, Doig and his cast of supporting characters – his attorney, C.D. Smith Construction and RE/MAX Realtors, the company hired to market the project – have all said the city’s term sheet, which was originally approved last fall and an extension thereon approved in March, is backwards and that a developer’s agreement must be signed before condo units can be sold or more traditional, takeout financing can be obtained. This comes in the 11th hour when nary a word like this was said during the course of the last several months. Yet everyone involved had every opportunity to know what the term sheet called for. Now suddenly, it's “backwards” and Mr. Doig can’t do anything as a result of that.

But even Doig’s own people seem to be in a state of flux or confusion about the status of things. We’ve been told for months now that reservations were being taken for condo units. Some published reports even said some units were already sold. Yet Doig is now refusing to say how many units may be sold and his realtors are saying they can’t sell anything without a developer’s agreement. I don’t know how Mrs. Scheuermann wants to get the city and Doig on the same page when his own people don’t seem to be. And why would she want to? Can she even vote on this project? Let’s consider the last question first…

When she was first elected to the council last April, Scheuermann voted on projects involving contractor Ben Ganther. Later on I believe she abstained from such votes, saying there was a conflict of interest for her with respect to her job at U.S. Bank. So I’m confused as to how she could vote on a massive project like this when Ganther is directly involved in the project. Not only is he still listed on the Five Rivers web site as being a member of the project team, but he was copied on Doig’s letter to the city last week in which Doig threatened to pull out. I am not sure how you vote on something involving a contractor one month, don’t in another, then do so in another.

As to the question of “why” she or anyone else on the city council would want to get the city and Doig back on the same page, I think all councilors have to do is listen to the people they’ve been elected to serve. People are fed up; we feel we’ve been misled and strung along; and we’ve certainly been kept in the dark about a development we’re being asked to involuntarily be partners in.

Esslinger said it best when interviewed this morning on WOSH 1490-AM. He was asked about Doig’s charge that the City of Oshkosh is backwards when it comes to development. He said he disagrees with that comment, then added, “We bend over backwards.” That fact has been proven time and time again by evidence of the number of open TIFs we have in this city. It is now time for the Oshkosh Common Council to get its priorities in order and do the bidding for the right partners in this project – the taxpayers – and for the right reasons. Kill all offers of public funding and if Mr. Doig still wants to do his project, let him do it without our money. Then he won’t have to worry about developer’s agreements and “backwards” term sheets. And we won’t have to worry about whether we’re being sold down the river (or five rivers) by an overly ambitious developer or a city council that so far has seemed to care more about out-of-town developers than their constituents.

- Cheryl

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Some council support still remains for Five Rivers. But why?
Authored by: Kent Monte on Tuesday, June 20 2006 @ 11:29 AM MDT
I know we have had our differences lately but this is one of the best written pieces that you have done. It is fair, unbias, and complete. Not that my opinion counts for much but I thought you would like to hear it. Also, if you are interested, I posted a copy of the resolution on my site for your reading pleasure. www.monteforcouncil.blogspot.com
Have a nice afternoon.
K. Monte

Some council support still remains for Five Rivers. But why?
Authored by: admin on Wednesday, June 21 2006 @ 06:56 AM MDT
Thank you for your comments, Kent. Though I must say I approached this piece the same as I have any other.
- Cheryl

Some council support still remains for Five Rivers. But why?
Authored by: DBCooper on Tuesday, June 20 2006 @ 04:50 PM MDT
This just in, city staff met today, looks like the end is near!