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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wareham to Receive $208,000 in Public Funds

Council Gives Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Gift of Public Money

Corporate Profits Remain Private But Risk is Made Public

Mayor Scott Donahue
Giving Wareham $200,000
of the people's money is nice
but $500,000 would be better.
In an unprecedented act of City Hall-to-developer largess in a city long known for its extraordinary generosity to developers, the Emeryville City Council, acting on a recommendation from the staff, voted Tuesday to give a lavish gift of $208,000 in public money to Rich Robbins of Wareham Development Corporation for the controversial 'Transit Center' project on Horton Street.  The City will write a check to Wareham, drawn from public funds because Mr Robbins, the CEO of Wareham and a major player among developers in town, thinks it's unfair to him that the City increased its development impact fees before the Transit Center was finished and that he should get any additional money he paid returned to him.  The final amount agreed to by the City Council Tuesday ends the contested cash back request from Mr Robbins begun in January when he asked the City for $729,000.

Councilwoman Ally Medina felt Rich Robbins' pain Tuesday night and argued to give Wareham $208,000, however her two colleagues Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez thought Ms Medina was too stingy with the people's money and held out for a gift of $500,000 instead; the amount recommended by staff.  All three pointed to the public benefits the citizens will reap from the Transit Center project.  The City Attorney, Michael Guina reminded the Council members that returning the money to Mr Robbins is strictly voluntary and they are under no legal obligation to do so but that fell on deaf ears among the majority on the Council.
Ms Medina's argument ultimately held sway and the City of Emeryville will now write a check for $208,420 to Mr Robbins for building the project the Planning Commission twice voted down due to its "lack of public benefit".  The two figures bandied about Tuesday night ($208,000 and $500,000) represent two visions of what was characterized as "fair" by their respective City Council champions Tuesday but neither had any legal basis, opening up the City to possible lawsuits from other developers similarly taxed and looking to be made whole.
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez
Yes, let's make it a cool half million.

Mayor Donahue told the Tattler after the final vote, "Fees are paid or improvements are made to provide a city for reimbursement for public services.  When infrastructure is provided that the fees pay for, having that fee is a kind of double charge."  The Mayor added the cash back to Rich Robbins is "prudent" and speculating about future Wareham development projects in Emeryville, he cautioned, "We'll have to negotiate with Rich in the future (for our benefit)."
Councilwoman Medina expanded on the idea of "fairness" after the vote, stating she felt constrained by "the intent of [the City of Emeryville's] credit policy for transit impact fees' regardless of the City Attorney's concise release from any such (legal) constraint.

The dissenting Council members, John Bauters and Christian Patz, relied on the City Attorney's view and also the need for future transit public infrastructure improvements.  Mr Bauters reminded everyone of the considerable impacts the Transit Center will bring, especially as pertains to bike safety with the glut of cars from the 823 parking spaces the project will provide, "We're going to put a lot of cars on [the Horton Street] Bike Boulevard" he said noting the money, fungible as it is, could help ameliorate that safety issue and help other transit needs the City has.
For her part, Ms Martinez agreed the Transit Center will have a negative impact but she said she is more concerned with being "fair" to Mr Robbins.
Councilwoman Ally Medina
After what the City Attorney said,
$500,000 might sound too generous...
Let's settle on $200,000.

Mr Bauters noted developers, when they put together a project, take a risk that a municipality might change the rules (including the fee schedule) and they are not required to be made whole following such a public policy change.  "Development equals risk" he said Tuesday, raising the specter of the much derided federal government's fealty to Wall Street and their propensity to help them keep corporate profits private while socializing the risk.

5 comments:

  1. Wareham seems to generate a non stop flow of distressing news. And RULE doesn't seem very united after all.

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  2. I can think of a better word than distressing.

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  3. I'm sorry, who is going to benefit from that ugly structure? Really now! Thanks for reporting.

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  4. The sad part of all this is that Wareham did receive bonus points and the residents did not receive what was due to them. Jennifer West was the only dissenting council member at the time, and was concerned about the impact on the city. The rest just gave the usual go ahead. Ms. Medina's argument was incorrect as it focused on the lack of bonus points. Now that Wareham plunders the CIP monies, what will be removed from the list?

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  5. I sure don't understand how he does it. Robbins never pays his fair share for transportation improvements. The city gave him control of the Emery Go Round, the Staff worked with Wareham to defraud 18 property owners of money to help pay to underground his utilities. The city paid $660,000 for noise attenuation of Emery Dtation East, helped pay to clean up toxic waste at the transit center,. He chages his tenants $95 per month for parkimg, He doesn't care if 3/4 of his garage is empty and his tenants take all the street parking.He is the reason we had to set up a permit parking process.if he creates a new building, the required parking should be for his tenants. the city should not issue a business license for his tanants if he doesn;'t provide them with parking. The city should implement a parking tax for private garages. I'm real surprised the council can find sympathy for him, and not other business people who really need it. I think the council made a mistake.

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