- Long-rumored International Bridge finally appears to be gaining traction in Delray, Detroit Metro Times
- Politicians and Penguins craft deal for lower Hill development, New Pittsburgh Courier
- The Bronx Soccer Stadium Is Dead: Who Killed It? Huffington Post New York
- Buzzard Point neighbors seek benefits from D.C. United stadium, Washington Post
- Moroun low-balls Detroit, but city too smart to fall for it, Detroit Free Press
- Civic San Diego faces call for community benefits; Advocates are pushing hard for affordable housing, San Diego City Beat
- Harlem tenants clueless about $3M fund call for housing security, youth programs; blast group for spending money on air conditioners, New York Daily News
- Community Benefits Agreement being ironed out for Huntington Station redevelopment, Newsday
Detroit Metro Times
September 17, 2014
By David Sands
Talk of a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit has dragged on so long that it might as well be an urban legend to folks in Delray, the down-on-its-luck Southwest Detroit neighborhood where the project will touch down. After 10 years of speculation, though, the effort to build the long-rumored New International Trade Crossing (NITC) finally appears to be gaining traction.
Michigan and the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority, the Canadian entity that will oversee the project on a daily basis, are currently engaged in pre-construction activities to set the stage for retaining a concessionaire to begin work on the span, according to MDOT. To this end, the state is pushing a $1.42 million Michigan Land Bank deal to purchase 301 tax-reverted properties in the prospective U.S. project footprint from the city. Voluntary purchases from individual property owners and businesses are slated for next year. Michigan officials are also working to hash out a development agreement with city leadership that includes language on community benefits for Delray and Southwest Detroit. Construction is expected to start in 2016 and wrap up by 2020.
The $2 billion-plus project promises to ease traffic congestion and boost regional trade by linking I-75 with Canada's Highway 401 and providing an alternative to the Ambassador Bridge.
MDOT Communications Director Jeff Cranson said via email that construction will create thousands of Michigan jobs and that he expects the crossing to spur economic growth and job creation that directly benefits Delray and Southwest Detroit.
"It is expected that the NITC project, as well as other unique resources and infrastructure in Michigan will catalyze the creation of one or more transportation, distribution and logistics hubs that will spur long-term economic growth and job creation in economically disadvantaged Detroit," Cranson tells Metro Times.
Despite these projections, recent momentum has raised concerns. Many Detroiters fear the city is getting a raw deal from Michigan and Canada. The impact on Delray, which will be hosting the bridge, an I-75 interchange and a 170-acre customs plaza, has been a particular flashpoint. Construction will take a sizeable chunk out of the neighborhood and could impact access to a community health clinic. Mitigating truck traffic and emissions is also a pressing matter for residents.
"I'm concerned about the state of the neighborhood, the impact, the pollution," says Scott Brines, president of the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition (SDCBC), the driving force for neighborhood benefits. "We want to be [seen] in a different light that shows, 'Hey, this is the United States of America. Welcome to Michigan. We are the new face of Michigan.'"
Butting up against the Detroit and Rouge rivers on Detroit's southwest side, Delray certainly has its share of troubles.
According to Data Driven Detroit, 38 percent of households in Council District 6, where Delray sits, live in poverty. Since the district also contains more affluent neighborhoods, the reality there is, if anything, bleaker than that.
Delray's proximity to industrial sites like Zug Island has piled environmental problems onto economic ones. A University of Michigan analysis using 2006 EPA Toxic Release Inventory data ranked its ZIP code, 48209, the seventh most toxic in Michigan.
Michael Christopher, a 58-year-old building trades worker, has lived in Delray his whole life and owns property near the footprint. He describes the neighborhood's plight more tangibly.
"Some of the alleyways are overrun with trees," he says. "It looks like a jungle. You have constant sewage clogging because the city never comes to maintain, and then you have a lot of dumping. The police hardly ever patrol. It's an area where we're left to defend ourselves."
Growing up, Christopher experienced a different Delray, with beautiful houses, orderly alleyways, magnificent trees, and bustling streets filled with bakeries, shoe shops, and ice cream parlors.
He attributes the decline to manufacturing loss, political corruption, scrapping, and lax pollution controls. As a member of SDCBC, Christopher has attended countless protests and hearings for community benefits. Through it all, he's maintained a glimmer of optimism.
"I look at the bridge as bringing new hope for prosperity to an area like Delray," he says. "The entire Southeast Michigan community can prosper, if it's done right."
Unfortunately, he's not convinced that Canada and the state of Michigan will do right by Delray.
Land and Benefits
Christopher isn't alone. Residents and supporters flocked to City Council's recent NITC hearings. Some demanded community benefits. Others even picketed the land deal.
Despite the $1.42 million land transfer being vetted by the city assessor, it raised eyebrows at the Sept. 8 council hearing. Council Member Gabe Leland referred to the deal as a "fire sale," adding, "When we look at what property is worth in this town, it doesn't add up." What's more, state officials couldn't guarantee proceeds wouldn't go to creditors in the city's ongoing bankruptcy.
The proposed Neighborhood Development Agreement (NDA) met with similar skepticism. A draft obtained by Metro Times includes numerous references to community benefits, including measures to help mitigate the impact of truck traffic, noise, and emissions; an employment service center; promoting the hiring of qualified locals for NITC jobs; quality of life enhancements like blight removal and park beautification; and a feasibility study on how to develop Fort Wayne.
The sticking point is that benefit funding would need to come from existing city and state sources or Canada, which is footing the NITC bill.
To ensure benefits from Canadians, Detroit needs to work through an entity called the International Authority, which will oversee the P3 (Public-Private Partnership) procurement process for the project and monitor the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority's compliance with a Crossing Agreement signed between the state and Canada. The IA consists of three Canadian and three Michigan appointees—none from the city. Under the NDA, the city would get representation from a consultative body called the Community Advisory Group.
As a result of land deal doubts, weak benefits guarantees, and zero Detroit representation on the International Authority, City Council unanimously rejected the NITC measures on Sept. 9. Emergency manager aide Gary Brown had informed them his boss planned to approve the transfer anyway, potentially without benefits. Council now has an opportunity to present a counterproposal to a state emergency loan board, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Exasperated by the situation, SDCBC President Brines shared his thoughts prior to Council's vote. "There's a lot of mention of community benefits, but there's no guarantees," he said. "There's always a handshake. They're not legally binding."
Still, he pledges to stick it out for the best outcome possible. "We've created too many authorities, too many advisories," he says. "Let's really try to make this partnership work between the city, the state, between Canada and the concessionaire, and make this a world-class crossing."
David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He has covered transportation news as a staff writer for Mode Shift.
New Pittsburgh Courier
Sep 17, 2014
By Christian Morrow
Calling it “transformational,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has announced a deal that will lead to the redevelopment of the 28 acres in the lower Hill District formerly occupied by the Civic Arena. “This plan will build transformational wealth for the residents of the greater Hill District,” said Peduto during the Sept. 9 announcement. “It provides the financial resources to build the ladders of opportunity between the 28-acres and the rest of the Hill District.”
The final Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan creates the largest Tax Increment Financing district ever in the city—the Greater Hill TIF District—which could attract up to $50 million in investment for development beyond the 28-acres in the Middle Hill, Crawford Roberts, Terrace Village, Bedford Dwellings and the Upper Hill.
It also calls for the highest levels of M/WBE inclusion in the city’s history: 30 percent for MBEs and 15 percent for WBEs. This plan, which involves the cooperative efforts of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Sports and Exhibition Authority, and Allegheny County, is broken down into several parts:
- Assessment—Assessment of residents of the Greater Hill District;
- Training—Building capacity and providing resources for Greater Hill District residents with potential to be hired in connection with the planned redevelopment of the Development Site;
- Procurement—Assuring that all developers, contractors, and other development partners commit to specific goals for local and minority hiring, and;
- Monitoring and Reporting—Monitoring and reporting of all goals for inclusion for local and minority hiring.
Kevin Acklin, Peduto’s chief of staff and URA board chair, said the deal represents the largest commitment to minorities on construction and development the city has ever made.
The deal almost instantly received some long sought after Federal funding as well, as both U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey announced the U.S. Department of Transportation had awarded $1.5 million in TIGR funds to build a green space “cap” over the Cross-town Boulevard, reconnecting the Hill with Downtown.
But even though Hill city Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle and Hill Community Development Corp. Executive Director Marimba Milliones signed off on the deal, Carl Redwood, chair of the Hill Consensus Group, said the deal is hollow and only provides more subsidies the Pittsburgh Penguins. “The Penguins never supported the community benefits agreement. It’s a backroom deal hatched by the politicians,” he said.
Milliones said it is still subject to review and that “finer points still need to be worked out.” One of those points might be that the TIF District boundaries include Duquesne University and UPMC Mercy Hospital, and even extend across the Parkway East, which is arguably not the Hill District.
NAACP Pittsburgh Unit President Connie Parker said this is just the beginning. “I think it’s a start. They are trying to do the right thing,” she said. “But I believe in Carl Redwood too. So, hopefully this is going in the right direction.”
Huffington Post New York
September 18, 2014
The soccer stadium project proposed early in the year for the new Manchester City Football Club's home in the South Bronx became an instant hot topic in the community that had leaders and activists talking and taking action. The new team was looking for a new home and the South Bronx looked favorably once their plan to build in the Flushing Park area of Queens fell through.
The Yankees entered the picture by partnering with club owner, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and the idea of bringing a world class facility for the team near the new Yankee Stadium was born.
From the moment it was first announced the project became a hot topic. The reason was that the community near the new stadium was still reeling from the three-year construction that it took to demolish the old Yankee Stadium, build the new stadium and build the parks that were promised to the community. That delay of the main park, Heritage Field and several other issues like jobs and contracts promised to the community residents and local businesses created much controversy that still lingers today in the South Bronx community. The second major project was a mall built several blocks south of the stadium that had less community participation and had major flaws for residents walking in and around the mall. Those issues really infuriated the community. Thus, a new soccer stadium being proposed between the Mall and the new stadium was definitely going to raise more than a few voices.
As such, community leaders and activist from all sides began to let their voices heard. Several polls were being quoted (the most accurate was the one from the South Bronx Community Association as it asked the most affected, the home owners and residents living nearest the proposed new stadium). There were those that were in favor, others totally against and others who had the, "how is the community going to benefit" attitude before saying YEA or NAY.
The fact is that the project died while the community was still working through the pains of meeting, debating and trying to come up with a real community consensus.
However, it's important to note that the project was not killed because of community pressure against it. According to several community leaders and activist who live nearest the site, the community was developing a consensus with all sectors to prepare a unified Community Benefits Agreement. Whether, or not this new and creative network of community forces would have worked, we will never know because the truth is the project was killed by the tenant of the building that was necessary to sell their property to build the stadium on that particular site.
According to an article in Capital New York, "The tenant is in one of the old buildings in the area that they needed to vacate, they had agreed on a price, then he changed his mind and the deal fell through," the source said.
So before anyone can take credit for what happened, or did not happen, with the new soccer stadium in the South Bronx we can say one thing: This is not the same old South Bronx and all new major projects will face a community that has matured and is concerned about what is best for the community.
By Jonathan O'Connell
September 19 at 9:00 AM
Residents and community organizers near the proposed site of a new stadium for D.C. United have asked the team and the District government for a community benefits agreement providing $5 million initially and future payments over the project’s 30-year lease.
The money would go toward job training, traffic improvements, small business opportunities and preservation of public and low-income housing in the surrounding neighborhoods of Southwest Washington.
Among the organizers of the effort is the Rev. Ruth Hamilton, co-pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, which is located a few blocks northeast of Buzzard Point, where the stadium is planned.
Hamilton, who has been at the church for 18 years, said neighbors of the site ought to benefit from the $300 million project and are better prepared to negotiate for benefits than they were when the District negotiated a deal for the Nationals Park.
She said she hoped the United agreement would be a legally binding document and that the initial $5 million would be provided before the District certified the new stadium for occupancy. “We are going to be seeing more and more of these,” Hamilton said. “Communities are getting organized and they are going to be looking for specifics.”
Community benefits agreements with provisions for affected neighbors are not uncommon for major development projects in the District. For instance, Wal-Mart, in conjunction with D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, agreed in 2011 to fund a series of workforce and charitable initiatives in the neighborhoods where it planned to open stores.
United and Gray (D) have agreed on a deal in which the city would provide up to $150 million in land and infrastructure for the project plus a series of tax breaks to the team, and United would spend roughly the same amount to build a 20,000-seat stadium.
Members of the D.C. Council have held a series of public forums on the proposal but have yet to hold a formal hearing. United ownership and City Administrator Allen Lew have been pushing aggressively to get the legislation passed before the end of the calendar year.
Supporters of the community benefits agreement include members of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions as well as members of a coalition of advocates and residents assembled by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. The agreement was drafted with the help of the Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC).
Felicia Couts, a CBCC coordinator, said the stadium development created a critical opportunity to provide job training and housing assistance to low-income residents in the area, including residents of Syphax Gardens, James Creek and Greenleaf Gardens public housing projects. “We’re just asking for a small carve-out that will primarily benefit residents who are closest to the stadium. Many of them are low-income and they should get first dibs,” she said.
Spokesmen for Lew and United both said they had received a copy of the draft proposal and planned to respond in coming weeks. “We think it’s really important and we look forward to having a complete response by the end of this month,” said United spokesman Craig Stouffer.
Detroit Free Press
By Nancy Kaffer
The last time billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun tried to derail a new bridge to Canada, he spent $33 million. This time, he’s angling for a deal. Moroun’s latest attempt to throw a wrench in the works of the New International Trade Crossing — the proposed-but-not-yet-built public span to Canada — is an offer to buy 301 city-owned parcels of land in southwest Detroit for the low, low price of $2.5 million. The land in question is essential to the state’s bridge-building effort, and Moroun’s offer is about $1.1 million more than the State of Michigan offered to pay.
Selling the land to Moroun would be a terrible plan under any circumstances — the kind of short-term thinking that’s focused on inconsequential short-term benefit at the expense of long-term health and stability.
Moroun owns more property than almost any private landowner in the city. He’s also one of the city’s most flagrant blight violators. (If you’d like to see a sample of his work, check out the decaying Michigan Central Station.)
Detroit’s nonprofit and municipal communities have worked diligently to develop a better land-use strategy for Detroit, empowering the city’s land bank to sell dilapidated properties at auction to homeowners who want to live in the city, with the side effect of making property unavailable to the bulk buyers who rake in hundreds of properties every year at the annual tax-foreclosure auction and do nothing with them.
We’ve seen the development of the Detroit Future City plan, a new framework for land use in the city. And Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has consolidated and streamlined the city’s blight-enforcement operation, stepping up the pace of code enforcement and demolition.
But at this price? Frankly, it’s insulting.
Moroun, 83, is the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, one of Detroit’s two border crossings to Canada. The aging Ambassador Bridge is in bad shape, and subject to frequent traffic clogs; Moroun wants to build a second span in the same location. The state wants to build a second, publicly owned span in a different location, in conjunction with Canada. Canada will foot much of the project’s cost.
Moroun, obviously, would like to continue his bridge monopoly, and is willing to pay to do it ... but not that much. This time, anyway. I mean, let’s keep in mind that Moroun is No. 352 on the Forbes 400, a list of the country’s wealthiest individuals, and has a net worth of $1.5 billion. And don’t forget that, two years ago, he spent $33 million in an attempt to pass a statewide proposal barring construction of any new, public border crossing without a popular vote.
So, for Moroun to offer $2.5 million this time, well, it’s kind of chump change.
For what it’s worth, the Detroit City Council has given short shrift to Moroun’s offer, and indicated during a Thursday session that his pitch isn’t on the table. The council also rejected the sale of the land to the state, saying the neighborhood development agreement negotiated by Mayor Mike Duggan’s team doesn’t do enough to protect residents. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr will likely push the sale through without council’s approval, with a community benefits agreement to be developed during the bidding for bridge construction and concessions.
Selling 301 properties to Moroun at any price would be disastrous, a return to the kind of thinking that has helped make Detroit a hodgepodge of stable neighborhoods and blighted, emptying blocks. Rationalizing land use — that’s where Detroit’s healthy future lies. Not in moving property for a pittance.
San Diego City Beat
By Joshua Emerson Smith
Two of the city’s most historically neglected neighborhoods will likely receive dramatic investment during the next decade. However, those holding the purse strings have largely avoided public scrutiny about what exactly that investment will look like. Eying an initial $150 million in funds slated for development deals and revitalization efforts in Encanto and City Heights, affordable-housing advocates and others now see a chance to replace resources lost when redevelopment ended.
On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved longtime local developer Reese Jarrett as the new president of Civic San Diego, the city-owned nonprofit built from the now-dismantled Centre City Development Corporation. Pointing out that 20 percent of all revenue under redevelopment was set aside for low- to moderate-income housing, Councilmember Ed Harris asked Jarrett during the meeting if Civic San Diego would back a similar program.
The answer was no. “It’s going to be on a project-by-project basis,” Jarrett said, “because we no longer have the continuing revenue that came out of redevelopment. “Where the affordable housing is most needed, we’re going to try to implement it,” he added.
However, that’s not Jarrett’s call to make, City Council President Todd Gloria noted. “The policymaking is made by the board of Civic San Diego and by this City Council.” “When we set up a box, Mr. Jarrett, you’re going to live within it, and we’re going to move forward,” Gloria added. “But I want to stay mindful of the fact that it’s a balance, and that’s why I’m going to support Mr. Jarrett today, because I think you understand the balance.”
In response to a CityBeat inquiry to Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office, spokesperson Craig Gustafson said that while a comparison with redevelopment is not appropriate because of different restrictions on funding, “Mayor Faulconer would support a 20-percent set-aside once a stable source of revenue is identified.”
In recent months, a growing coalition of advocates have lobbied members of the City Council to draft a policy ensuring that development deals between Civic San Diego and the private sector include affordable-housing requirements that are at least as strict as those under redevelopment. Specifically, advocates are pushing for 30 percent of residential units and 30 percent of investment funds to be dedicated to affordable- and low-income housing. Under redevelopment, 15 percent of residential units and 20 percent of funds were allocated. “That is absolutely needed for the city, and I hope under Mr. Jarrett’s leadership, he will make that commitment,” Bruce Reznik, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation, said at the council meeting during public comment.
Joined by members of the City Heights Community Development Corporation and the San Diego Organizing Project, the Housing Federation and others could be getting traction at City Hall for a so-called community-benefits policy. “You never want to count your chickens, but some council members have been talking to us about this, and there’s clearly some interest on the 10th floor,” said Ken Grimes, City Heights CDC executive director, referring to the floor at City Hall that houses council offices.
Without such a policy, Civic San Diego will be challenged to negotiate a good deal for neighborhood residents, Grimes added. “It puts the agency staff in a difficult position when they’re trying to get a development deal done,” he said. “This way [with a benefits policy] they can say, ‘It’s not me…. Sorry.’”
Also being pushed is a policy to hire local workers and guarantee construction is subject to the city’s prevailing wage formula, which usually mirrors union wages.
“One of the things that you and I talked about, and many people who are here today have talked about in the past,” City Councilmember David Alvarez said to Jarrett at the meeting, “is how do we ensure that projects that come through the city, and this case through Civic San Diego, actually hire the people that live in the community where these projects are being built?”
While such questions are far from answered, it’s clear that money is coming down the pike. So far, Civic San Diego’s been awarded $58 million in federal new-market tax credits, which it’s used to provide incentives for private investment.
Officials are well on their way to putting together a $100-million investment fund aimed at building high-density “transit villages” along sections of El Cajon Boulevard and Imperial Avenue, as well as a separate $50-million investment fund to generate revenue through buying and leasing property. As this process plays out, advocates argue that a community-benefits policy would not only ensure good jobs but also prevent new development from displacing existing residents. “The only anti-gentrification strategy there is is affordable housing,” said San Diego Organizing Project Executive Director Kevin Malone. “If the new redevelopment 2.0 has no affordable-housing dollars in it, then gentrification just happens.”
During the last year, several members of Civic San Diego’s board of directors tried to raise similar points, calling for a public discussion of a community-benefits policy to regulate how the multimillion-dollar investment funds are spent. So far, the board has largely sidestepped the issue, declining to adopt a policy or even discuss the substance of the idea. “I’ve been advocating for community benefits for over a year and haven’t seen much momentum at Civic San Diego in terms of good jobs and affordable housing,” said Murtaza Baxamusa, a member of Civic San Diego’s board. “This is a pivotal moment for Civic to decide where to go. To the extent that the City Council sets the goals and objectives for Civic, the better it will be to sustain itself in the long run.”
Senior staff with Civic San Diego declined to comment for this story.
The issue of defining community benefits for the investment funds heated up at a series of board meetings last fall. At one meeting in September, Baxamusa, with the support of other board members, requested that city staff be on hand to answer questions about the creation of the funds.
In a stern response, Jeff Graham, Civic San Diego’s then-president, said, “Do I need to get the entire City Council in here to tell the board what their direction is? I have briefed every council member on this, and I have not received any opposition. I have briefed many, many community groups on this, and they are all asking, ‘When can you get out here and start helping us?’”
After spearheading the investment funds, Graham abruptly left in March to work for real-estate company Jones Lang LaSalle. Now, appointed by Faulconer and approved by the council, Jarrett, a former partner with developers Carter Reese and Associates, takes over as head of the agency.
While it’s unclear how Jarrett will handle the coming debate over a community-benefits policy, he acknowledges that it’s a significant issue in the community. “There’s been a lot of discussion as I’ve made the rounds to talk to community groups and labor groups and other interested shareholders in the economic development that’s going to occur in these neighborhoods,” he said at Monday’s council meeting. “I think there’s a real important aspect of creating a template for having goals set for economic development, neighborhood development, community benefits—however you want to phrase it.”
New York Daily News
September 16, 2014
Residents of two formerly beefing housing developments: Manhattanville and Grant Houses in Harlem met Saturday to discuss how an unused fund could help improve the community.
Benefits! What benefits?
Columbia University established a $3 million fund for the Grant and Manhattanville Houses in Harlem, but five years later only $85,000 has been tapped and residents say they had no clue the dough was available.
The fund was established as part of the $150 million Community Benefits Agreement Columbia signed in 2009, a condition of approval for its Manhattanville campus expansion, said Kofi Boateng, executive director of the West Harlem Development Corp. “The tenants were not aware of it,” said Boateng, whose group hosted a recent powwow at Manhattan Pentecostal Church to solicit ideas as to how the money should be used. “By now, they should have used $500,000 of it.”
A committee established years ago to address community needs had been inactive, Boateng said, adding the group had so far spent the money on air conditioners for its offices and to repair basketball courts.
Residents of two formerly beefing housing developments: Manhattanville and Grant Houses in Harlem met Saturday to discuss how an unused fund could help improve the community.
Residents — who endured the biggest gang takedown in city history, earlier this summer — called for enhanced security and other improvements, but the biggest need they identified was educational and recreation programs for youth. “There’s a lot we could do,” said Lisa Wilkes, 49, the captain of a residents’ watch program at the Grant Houses, noting that tenants have previously pooled their own resources to buy equipment and games for youngsters to use in a community room.
Taylonn Murphy, whose daughter was murdered three years ago inside the Grant Houses, called for some of the money to be used to create a neutral zone in which young rivals from both of the developments can gather for activities. “It’s just crazy that you would think about air conditioners when you have chaos going on outside,” said Murphy, whose daughter Tayshana, a popular high school basketball star, was gunned down as part of a beef between warring youth crews.
Both NYCHA-run complexes were raided by police on June 4, when officers arrested 103 alleged gang members from three different crews. The raid provided the impetus for the meeting, said Boateng, noting that the group later realized the funds from Columbia had barely been touched.
Residents overwhelmingly asked for upgrades to the buildings’ infrastructure along with employment training and educational, after-school and college-prep programs, and a safe space for youngsters, he said.
Huntington Station, NY
By Deborah Morrs
September 14, 2014
Town officials and the master developer of Huntington Station are finalizing an agreement that will dictate how fees derived from revitalization projects will be used to benefit the community.
The Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA, will be a contract between the town and Renaissance Downtowns at Huntington Station LLC.
It will be based, in part, on initiatives decided by input from the community; and it will govern the use of fees to be paid by Renaissance, projected to total from $300,000 to $400,000. "It's been a great collaborative process," said Ryan Porter, vice president of planning and development for Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns. "We're glad to have all the input that's been provided; the hope is that in the coming weeks we'll finalize the document that reflects that input."
But residents, businesses and civic group representatives who town leaders and the developer recommended to help devise the CBA are concerned that they will not see the final draft before the town board votes on it, which could be next month.
Dick Koubek, president of the Huntington Housing Coalition and a member of a CBA subcommittee, said he hopes the agreement reflects the committee's desires. "We've agreed to a conceptual structure," Koubek said. "I have concerns that the concepts we agreed to will be translated into open and vague language in a piece of paper with holes so big you can drive a Mack truck through it."
Susan Nielsen, a member of the Greater Huntington Civic Group and also a CBA subcommittee member, said there should be language in the CBA that allows for transparency, an advisory group and third-party representation. "It's an accountability issue for our public officials or anyone who is benefiting from becoming a stakeholder in this town," she said.
Joan Cergol, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, said the attorney representing the town in drafting the CBA has made it clear the town and developer are the two legal parties to the agreement. "As result, that document is not subject to community negotiation," she said. "The town and developer initiated a process that began in February 2014 whereby input and concepts from the various stakeholder groups were invited, debated and discussed."
The CBA must be in place before Renaissance can obtain site plan approval on its projects. Porter is scheduled to discuss the agreement and provide an update about the revitalization at the town's Economic Development meeting Monday at Town Hall, 100 Main St., at 7 p.m.
Huntington Station stakeholders in the project have been meeting since February to decide how to convey the community's vision. "The purpose of the nine months of effort we put into the CBA was to get all this input and the town was going to consider all the input for what they want to negotiate into the document," Porter said. "We're working through it."