by Eli Stone
It is something I learned in life that sometimes enough is enough. Enough food to eat, enough shelter to be comfortable, enough love, enough safety to free us from danger so we can engage in the pursuits of happiness yes enough, enough, enough. Yea, enough bones to chew too. But there are those who we encounter in life who are always after the American Dream of bigger, better, faster, and more. They are willing to use their power and influence to grant favors to their buddies in the name of bigger, better, faster, more, and to see that everything is developed. I’m talking about the DDA and the City of Woodland Park wanting another auto parts store and a stuff store….that will raise us to what 4 retailers in the auto parts arena alone?
I always ask questions such as who is the franchiser? Who will own the business? Who is the developer and what is his position within the community? I dunno, the recent article over the hullabaloo with the Woodland Station has raised a lot of questions for me. It seems that the developers are hell bent on developing everything, and of course the city is merrily issuing bonds and spending other people’s money, not yet made in an uncertain economy. I know, lets invite the big corporate businesses into our community.
Let’s send all of the money downstream like we do our water. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the bulk of the fast food and convenience stores here in town belong to a huge and the same corporation. The last I checked it was a corporate entity from South Carolina in which Muzzak owned a forty per cent share. Sorry the name escapes me because it has been a lot of years since I researched the subject. Now when big corporations come to town and put down stakes they are looked to as creating jobs that have health benefits and dental benefits and of course the retail tax that they will contribute to the city. But what do they really contribute to the local populace and economy? My experience is not too much really, they are more like leeches mostly siphoning off the bulk of the money for export. How about instead of looking to give us more places to spend our money that those so concerned with the money think of some ways to promote the creation of stuff and wealth instead of selling out to corporations that will simply siphon off the communities wealth? Maybe promote local artisans who create useful stuff more? Promote tourism more? How about issuing bonds to help local people set up local businesses and assist those locals in keeping those businesses viable. A few of the concerns I have are founded on rumor and still others are founded on fact. One rumor is that, it was one of our city founders and benefactors that originally deeded the property, now the site of the Woodland Station Overlay District, to the Saddle Club. In the deed it was written that the property be retained and enjoyed for recreational purposes for future generations. Old Bert Bergstrom, original founder of the Ute Inn is who I am referring to….bet he is happy that his wishes were so well followed if that were his wishes. I also bet that whoever the jokers are, or were, that violated his wishes will have a come-uppance from Bert in the hereafter, if there is a hereafter. I think Bert is still busy haunting the Ute though.
I read some of the Woodland Station Project paperwork and noticed that it gave a lot of ambiguous terms like “visually appealing”, “mountain feel”, “good mountain urban design”, “well built”, “structurally sound” (does that mean well built?), “small town vitality” (whatever that means in reference to one of the qualities), but I hope you get my drift. The presentation paper on the Woodland Overlay District was just a lot of, what I would refer to as fluff. Yes FLUFF, meaning ambiguity. I am not against development, or growth, or better stuff. I cannot for the life of me perceive how a 26000 square foot metal building in the middle of downtown would be appealing unless you stood to make some serious cash on the deal. Maybe it is because of the proximity to the Ute Chief Trailer Park. Metal trailers, metal building, okay maybe I am seeing the light. Oh, are we getting somewhere now? Waiver of parking requirements, waiver of all kinds of stuff for a downtown business….but it only raises the question again of why all the waivers? Follow the money trail folks and see who stands to gain. Can I get in on some of that action? Rumors are that if you are connected in town and that you stand to make money on the deal then, well, things can be different. Some questions I might raise are why are certain businesses allowed certain special dispensation? For instance, when Bier Werks put in their patio behind the Bier Werks building, why were they allowed to erect a canvas sort of tent and call it good? Why were the parking codes waived for the number of required parking spaces? Was it due to some of our city official’s involvement and investment in the business? Mike Mueller, owner of the Ute Inn had to erect a metal fence around his patio. Guess Mike isn’t one of the good old boys. So that leads me down the road to believe that there are some folks in town who stand to make good money on the back side of this operation. Also, why do corporations, like O’Reilly Auto Parts or Family Dollar get help through bond issues? Why doesn’t it go to assist truly local development? Yes dear people, to those “salt of the earth folks” that I referred to in last week’s article. Not hand-outs, but hand ups. I have talked to a couple of the business owners who will be affected by the building of the huge building. Blocked views, loss of business to Tom Lachina’s repair shop while the street is improved….I dunno, this doesn’t appear to have been planned out very well and it sure doesn’t appear that consideration was taken of others in the planning of the project.
I don’t look at bringing big corporate entities into town as local development. If I were king of the world, I would allow businesses to propose their plan and how they plan to mitigate impact on others and say yes or no but I don’t think I would give out special favors. Just makes for bad blood. But I suspect that partnering between the city and the DDA is leading some people down the path of good old crony capitalism. It’s not what you know, but who you know and how well you can schmooze those in power. Besides when you have the wealth of the populace behind you, what does all that small town stuff really matter? Wouldn’t it maybe be smart if the city and the DDA go back to the drawing board and put some substance in their plan and study the impacts on others and how to mitigate those impacts. Also, if there are to be huge amounts of waivers on codified issues then justification for those waivers would be nice to know. But then again if this project isn’t hurried through and approved and rammed down the throats of everyone involved then god knows a developer might go hungry, a banker may not get his new Mercedes next year, and the city may have to do contend with bond issues dealing with debt that really wasn’t necessary to begin with. Thanks for the fiscal responsibility there city of Woodland Park. Nothing like leading by example. So bottom line is it’s all about the money. Can someone bail me out here? I need some milk for my Milk Bonz and the 11 Mile fire just started…..I may need to pack up and move, too many fires, and Woodland Park is taking on the look and feel just like any other place…..just another corporate milk cow for the benefit of the few. Until next time, I wish you enough. WOOF!