Public Hearing on Warehouse Annexation

The following is a copy of the speech I made at the City Council at the public hearing Monday night. I’m including it because it summarizes my views & because my next entry will make more sense if you see the speech first.

Good evening. Thank you for hearing me tonight.

I live in the city. The warehouse would not be in my back yard. I don’t have a problem with annexation or a zoning change, and if Mr. Keating wanted to build a cute office park in that area, that would be fine, just dandy. My one and only objection to this plan is that it’s a warehouse.

When I first heard about the proposed annexation, and what it was for, my first reaction was: Why another warehouse? Can’t we get anything else? (By the way, I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve had the same reaction.) And when I looked at the plans I thought: Wow! This thing is HUGE! In the context of these reactions, there is a lot about this Business Center project that does not make sense to me.

For one thing, we have an award-winning Comprehensive Plan. We put a lot into it. It contains our commitment to diversity in growth, to a unique identity and to a high quality of life. This plan advances none of these objectives. For one thing, I think it’s unwise to put so many of our tax eggs in the same industrial basket. For another thing, it’s inconsistent to beautify the East entrance to our city and then to put up ugly boxes to the south. And I can’t figure out what changed in the past few years: first we were glad not to have a rail-port near us, but we’re supposed to embrace all those trucks now?

By the way, I think the question about why we can’t seem to attract anything but warehouses…is extremely important for the City Council to take up. I think it’s vital to our future to lay open the process of attracting new business here. We need to determine whether becoming Warehouse Central is our natural destiny, or somebody else’s dream. Warehouse Central is not my dream. I’m here in the hopes that it’s not your dream, either.

Now, about the size of this project. I don’t think we should even think about putting up something that translates into 2500 more trucks a day, until we actually experience the 800 trucks a day that the new Target center will bring. And I don’t think you take a project that would be bigger than Nestle and Goodyear and Target combined, and make decisions about it without careful study and reflection.

In other words, if the Business Center is such a great idea today, it will still be a great idea after an independent traffic study; after economic impact analyses; after DeKalb residents weigh in on traffic issues; and after the Environmental Commission reports on the effects of thousands of trucks’ worth of diesel soot and tire dust.

But I have a feeling that this project actually wouldn’t look like such a bargain under scrutiny. I do not believe that the jobs and tax dollars that it would bring could significantly outweigh the costs of tax incentives, of fee waivers, of increased road repairs, traffic, and pollution. And, finally, I don’t think we should trade our legacy as the innovative Barbs to become another Hub City.

Thank you.