LTE: Clearfield River Walk Project

Dear Editor:

First, I’d like to thank GantDaily for your robust coverage of my argument against the CCEDC’s commercial development attached to the Clearfield river walk project.  Other news outlets didn’t cover it near as thoroughly and I commend your recognizing that the public should hear both sides of this debate clearly.

Having seen the CCEDC’s rebuttal in your article, I’d like to highlight the fact that the CCEDC has never refuted my core argument: that it is wrong for a corporation – whose purported mission is economic development – to use taxpayer money for the purpose of fostering unnecessary competition with existing commercial real estate.

I ask the CCEDC this:  if there is only a SINGLE unoccupied space downtown, why should they create another storefront instead of filling unoccupied space?  I won’t dispute the CCEDC’s occupancy rate facts and figures, because they’re simply a fake “straw man” argument. New business and job creation attract economic development and an excess of commercial real estate does not.

When will the CCEDC go on record, speaking to those who make their living from commercial real estate and explain to them that it is more important to the CCEDC to create competition and steal their tenants than to support their business?

The CCEDC’s latest plan revealed that there will be a space for reunions and weddings. When will the CCEDC go on record, speaking to the Clearfield Fair & Park Board, the Knights of Columbus, the Eagles, the Elks, the Moena Restaurant, the St. Charles Café, the Florian Banquet Center and other venues that host reunions and weddings and explain to them that their halls simply have too much business, are too profitable and that the CCEDC needs to help create further competition?

The CCEDC announced that it hopes to house a brewpub/restaurant in the new commercial building.  When will the CCEDC go on record, speaking to Hedges, Ethan’s Cafe, Legends, Denny’s, Spanky’s, Fox’s, Sid’s, Main Won, Buck’s and other eateries, explaining that there is a need for MORE restaurant competition in this town?

I’d love to see the CCEDC’s press release addressing the above.  Instead, they only offer a back-pedaling plan revision and obfuscation.  Every time a valid point is made about the problems with this commercial development, the CCEDC changes their story.  Why?

Because the story is that this is likely a project motivated by greed (for money, local recognition or validation), NOT a project with altruistic intentions for the good of economic development, the borough or its citizens.  When will the CCEDC go public with the financial figures for this project, revealing how much they stand to profit from it?

I’d like to point out that it was strangely coincidental that tenants of the Water Street house and apartments were suddenly moving out in the months before the CCEDC took ownership.  The bankruptcy, which those properties were involved in, was filed in 2010.

Somehow the tenants were able to stay for four years, but couldn’t continue as tenants of the CCEDC?  Hmmm … strange!

Demolishing those buildings now, without a developer, will have a sizable negative impact on property taxes.  I’ve never looked up what the Tool Shed pays, but just the house, the apartment building and the former men’s shelter on Water Street look to pay more than $5,000 yearly. If those structures are removed, their assessed values drop precipitously. Including the Tool Shed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the net impact on property taxes is close to a loss of $10,000 per year for the borough and school system.

Those houses and buildings are blighted but look completely functional and refurbishable to me. For the record, I’m a carpenter and electrician and have worked extensively on home repairs, additions and most recently completely gutted and renovated the former Palumbo’s Meat Market in East End.  With these buildings torn down, what happens if no developer is found and nothing is ever built?  The citizens of the borough lose.

This begs the question … Why demolish buildings and make their sites “pad ready?”  If a developer is going to build large buildings on these sites, there will have to be extensive foundation work done because of the proximity to the river and the fact that they are being built on what used to be a flood plain.  The cost of bulldozing those buildings and hauling them away is largely negligible compared to the overall cost of a project like that.  Tearing them down doesn’t serve the interest of marketing the sites … it conveniently serves to lower the CCEDC’s property tax burden.

Funniest is the final quote of your article:  “We’re looking at deeding the land over to the developer who will make a capital investment. [The CCEDC] then uses that as leverage to do the Riverwalk project.” It’s comical that this project, which started as an idea for a Clearfield river walk park with NO commercial development, has become so convoluted that now commercial development is being used as “leverage” to create the park improvements that the original grant was for.  My head hurts.

Kind regards,

Fred Weaver

Clearfield

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