April 24, 2012
I'm hearing from pretty reputable folks in the city government that the city commission is posturing itself to kill a multi-million multimodal transit facility planned for downtown and could do so as early as next month.
City Manager James Taylor said Tuesday that he's been asked by some on the commission to bring the multimodal center back up for discussion on the commission's first work session in May.
The project may not have the votes to be spared. At least not in its current form and current location.
After years of planning, the center now is in jeopardy thanks in part to a concerted effort from the owners of the current transit facility, who currently get $80,000 per year rent from the city and Federal Transit Facility to run city buses from their site on West Oglethorpe Boulevard, and owners of property near where the new site would sit who contend it would adversely impact their mostly-vacant buildings.
The Destiny Group, the owners of the transit station, and John Sherman, the owner of the property near the proposed site, have filed suit in U.S. District Court to block the city's plans to build the center on the vacant parking lot behind the judicial building.
At the end of the day, the arguments for and against the proposed multimodal transit site are relatively easy to comprehend. (Granted, these lists are arguable and, depending on your perspective, more or less in the right column.)
A. Site purchased: Arguably the biggest pro for the city to keep the proposed site and move forward is the fact that the proposed site is on land that the government already owns. It wouldn't take any property off the tax rolls, nor would it cost the taxpayers anything to purchase. If the city were to stay with the current site and renovate or expand it, that would likely involves millions to purchase the property outright that would then take the transit center off the tax rolls.
B. Studies completed. For the most part, every legal hoop has been jumped with the proposed site. The public hearings have been held and the environmental studies have been done --twice. To change sites now could mean those studies would have to be re-done on the new site. And those funds would likely have to come from your local tax dollars rather than federal sources.
C. Momentum: According to city officials, the city is under the gun from the Federal Transit Administration to get a transit facility. The one currently in use was meant only to be temporary and now, more than 10 years later, it's still being used. If the city chooses not to build a new facility, at a bare minimum, they'll have to continue paying rent to Destiny but instead of being reimbursed by the FTA, it'll come straight from the city's general fund.
A. COST: The price tag of the proposed site has escalated. $10.5 million of federal, state and local tax dollars are being fed into the project. With federal dollars, comes federal rules on how to spend those dollars. If the city were to build a simple transfer station for its bus fleet, it do so using only local dollars and wouldn't have to jump through all of the federal hoops the project has thus far required.
B. ECONOMIC IMPACT: One of Destiny's biggest argument's against the proposed site is that it would hurt the handful of businesses near the current transit center who depend on the foot traffic that the center creates. More than 20 local businesses within a one-mile radius of the transit center have written letters urging commissioners to keep the center where it's at and improve it.
C.ENVIRONMENT: And by environment, I mean spending environment. With the economy still in the tank, people are leery of large government-funded projects that benefit only a specific segment of the society.