Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Mostly Snobbish City Council Say NO

That is the way it appeared to me after watching the city council video form last Monday night.

Item 6 on the video  talked about converting the old Hollywood Video store to a light duty automotive repair shop. The building has been empty for years now. If you haven’t noticed, there are many buildings unused around Richardson. There is lots of unused space that could be put to use which would in turn help the local economy and the property owners.

The city council for the most part turned up its nose at the old building being used for an auto repair shop. The person who wanted to lease the space was willing to put $100,000 or more into the place to make it work. Doing that would increase the property tax rolls and the sales tax.

Laura Maczka voted down the idea along with every other member of the council with the exception of Amir Omar. Their reason was that, basically, it is not the right type of business for that location. How ironic it is that once again, a person many think of as not American enough or of the correct religion, shows that his actions are much more aligned with American history than his counterparts on the city council.

After watching the public hearing, and listening to the proposal and listening to the various reasons the council said NO to grow the tax base in Richardson. It is puzzling why the city council is being so snobbish with who they let do business in Richardson. The Richardson City Council and the Richardson Chamber of Commerce seem to care very little for small business, small business that do pay an unfair share of taxes.

The city council will pay companies like Fossil Watch to move from one part of Richardson to another part of Richardson. They will also approve a deal when they let KDC build the building that Blue Cross now uses and allow them to pay only about 5% of the property tax the building is worth. Tax abatement for the big guys is putting a strain on property owners who do not get the favorable treatment.

So in essences, the city council said it does not want to allow a small business, who is not looking for a tax break, which is will to improve rented property and serve the neighborhood a chance to do so. They just don’t appear to be special enough.

They say they are waiting for something better. They might wish to reconsider, a bird in hand is better than two in the bush.


  1. That attitude is exactly the city has gone downhill for the last 20 years. They probably want to put apartments there instead. Good, needed retail stores won't even consider coming, as the city is so hard to work with. It is time the residents band together over this. Demand to know what is planned for the land across from the library; or demand that the city sell it. Tree awards, scenic city awards, and car charging stations are not making this city a desirable place to live. As long as you have the current city management, expect nothing.

  2. Sounds like the "city fathers" are up to their same old tricks.

    Get out while you still can. There are lots better places to live than Richardson.

  3. Sorry David. It was the correct decision.

    It is the wrong location for an automotive shop. The fact that the blue cross deal sucks doesn't make sandwiching an automotive place in there a better idea.

    Most of the deals you dislike by the city are "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." That includes fossil and blue cross. They handed fossil or kdc an abatement because it was a bird in hand. If they didn't then fossil would have gone to Frisco or Plano and we would be waiting for your two in the bush.

  4. I seem to remember a company called Textronics in Richardson because they were given an abatement of $600,000 for a 10 ear period. That abatement was equal to 10 years worth of BPP taxes. After the 10 years, plano paid them to move to Plano. The net result is that all of these economics and abatement deals are bad for everyone, except for the companies that get them. Richardson and the other city should use their lobbyist to lobby against deals that do not include moving companies in from out of state. Paying these companies to move from one part of the city to another part of the city or from one local city to another local city should be done away with. It is the taxpayers and local business that lose with these kinds of deals.

    As for that shop that wanted to open up at Belt Line and Coit, they should have been allowed to open. They were using their own money, not tax payer money, and they were going to go into a place that has stood empty for over 5 years. How would you like to be a property owner who cannot lease their building because the city council says no, even though the city planning commission says yes, the property owner say yes and the operator of Krogers say yes? That is not good business.

  5. I kind of feel like the first two comments would have been made here regardless what the Council voted. And I can't make it thru the fourth comment.

    Land use decisions have to be made thru a 20-30 year lense and there is ZERO justification for an auto related use on that parcel in the current land use plan. If you don't like the plan, change it. But the current policy is clear. Further, the vision for that corner is blurry at best and driving down a stake that further hobbles that corner - just in the name of filling a quirky building - is likely counterproductive. Try to think about what the Promenade could be with some bold changes as opposed to onesy organic growth.

    Given the need for furhter study at the Promenade, the Council made the right decision in this case.

  6. anon @9:47

    "Land use decisions have to be made thru(sic) a 20-30 year lense (sic) and there is ZERO justification for an auto related use on that parcel in the current land use plan. If you don't like the plan, change it. But the current policy is clear. Further, the vision for that corner is blurry at best and driving down a stake that further hobbles that corner - just in the name of filling a quirky building - is likely cournterproductive. Try to think about what the Promenade coud be with some bold changes opposed to onesy organic growth. Given the need for futher study at the Promenade, the Council made the right decision in this case."

    Hmnnn.....these same arguments could have been used against the approval of "storage use" for the long empty "iconic" building in the fading and in need of "vision" shopping center on West Arapaho.
    Except perhaps the different "relationship" that the bank providing the loan to the storage
    company representatives had with the staff and Council.

    "Try to think about what (that Araaho center) could be with some bold changes as opposed to onesy organic growth." So "given the need for further study" of that part of Arapaho, and the fact that the storage building will be there for a long time, did the Council make the right decision there?

    So - what is the difference between the two - one approved, and the other not? Unfortunately,in Richardson, it apears the difference may indeed be snobbishness, and knowing the right people.

  7. Take a snapshot in time, and let's get out the retrospectrascope to look at Pitcock Automotive. That business was fine behind Spring Creek BBQ for longer than Spring Creek has been there. But the city council and staff had different ideas. The City chose to pay out almost 7 figures to get Pitcock to relocate and nothing has happened in all these years to his old property. He just lucked out and got new digs. Remember Greenway coming in the city house and selling a Petco/Office Max/Lowe's and whatever else at Beltline 75? All that talk about big retail just didn't happen and 7 figures of taxpayer monies out the door. Too bad the taxpayers lost on that deal. But the staff and Council gave it the good old college try.

    This is the problem with local government taking a role in something no one wanted. It is a violation of property rights of any business that wants to operate in our community. It is no secret that Richardson has been so hard on businesses here that they just passed us by.

    Nextis Nortel, World Com and Countrywide. Though a good idea in the beginning to try and lure very large business to Richardson with telecom corridor, we are still recovering from the economic bad timing. It just didn't develop the thriving retail to us.

    The next greatest thing was TIF. No one liked the Green Valley Apartments and the Spring Valley PD was born. All the promises of no tax dollars used has turned into a mere quarter of a million in appreciated tax revenue that does not cover the developer agreements at 7% compounded interest. But there is still time with a 2 decade clock still running. After 2 decades how much inflated costs does 7% add to the liabilities that the value cannot support?

    Now, with TIF2, we are looking to thousands and thousands of apartments they just love to eventually smother out the neighborhood around it. In Agenda 21 fashion, once again the talk is no real cost to the citizens for the $136m infrastructure costs to be reimbursed sometime between phase development and the year 2037. Everyone is so happy with a project that will not return revenues for 25 years, yet it will require more police, fire, water etc.

    Speaking of water, where is all this water coming from when we are rationed right now? Do you think 4,000 apts and over 4mm of office and retail might use a few million gallons a month?

    We are still facing TIF3/Downtown revitalization/West Spring Valley.

    There goes the neighborhoods.

  8. Bravo to the comments of Feb 15, 9:47.

    Automotive uses are great when they start but go downhill. Look how many bad properties in Richardson involve disused former automotive spots. Better not to make another next to a difficult retail location.

    Other commenters mix up issues. Abatements and buyouts are not the same as zoning issues. Bad uses are bad uses. Bad economic development deals does not mean that the use or development is bad and vice versa. It's not surprising most readers here mix it up because they will look for any excuse to criticize the city.

    The irony is that this hands off attitude of most typical readers here is exactly why older parts of Richardson looks bad and is hard to lease or redevelop.

  9. I am not mixed up at all nor do I look for an excuse to criticize the city. I don't know who "the City" is, to blame. Besides, it's lame assumptions, or what I call lies, like this we have to get beyond. It has no merit, but it does create doubt and a great divide between the citizens. Useless.

    Yes, we have codes and yes, we have a comprehensive plan after years of questioning. The print was barely dry on the Plan before the changes have to be made for multiple big developments. Really now, how many mixed use developments does one land locked city need?

    We could go back in time and blame the look of older parts of Richardson on past Councils for not having a vision, but that would be as silly as blaming the current one for voting for an empty property as more useful for something else that does not exist. Both are silly.

    Apartments look bad when they go downhill after 10-15 years. They are a short term product. Every developer knows this. Remember the whole pitch 50 years ago over Spring Valley? Now 'wonderful cutting edge' looks like crap. Did someone not have the vision then? No. Aging happens. But does that mean 4 houses equal one hotel is always better. Bigger is not always better. What is sustainable today will no longer be so in a decade or two. It will just be a different albatros to deal with along the way.

    The issue is whether the Council has the right to decide empty is better than occupied when everyone directly affected around the future business is ok with it. On a macro level many of the decisions serve the few.

    Fossil is a good case for whose City is this anyway? Someone made up they would move if the taxpayers didn't fork over a deal. Sounds more like corporate blackmail if that is true. I will never buy any product this company makes for this sole reason. Based on their financials they didn't need the money.

    Forcing a building to stand unoccupied is the easiest way to let any structure deteriorate. Maybe its more of a purposeful self fulfilling prophecy. Has the Council done that before? You bet.

    What about the lady who spent half a million on purchase of a building on W Spring Valley and tried to work with THE City to open her business only to be told there was a moratorium and her business model did not fit what THE City wanted. Or several years prior to that, the the guy who spent over $300k renovating a building just west of now called Brick Row and was told he would never get a CO because the Council had a PD in place that included his property. That PD didn't exactly turn out so well for the citizens (more debt) or the developer.

    Let's not forget Zone D'erotica. That was some amazing tactic to sue the City before they could deny a CO. While this would not be my best pick for the area, but they proved they had a right to be here.
    At least I think they are still there.

    Point to be made is whose City is this anyway? It certainly is not one for the citizens, whether business or resident, who work to thrive in this community. It must be someone else who wants bigger, denser and taller that costs hundreds of millions with a casual implication of partial taxpayer funding. If the deals created do not work, who is on the hook? This acceptance of OPM is out of control.

    This is what some call progress without thinking quality of life is of any consequence for those already here. And nobody ever talks about the cost of anything either.

  10. If we would invest more in streets and other infrastructure, we wouldn't need so much auto repair.

    If we would invest more in the neighborhoods, the property values might be increased enough to make the economics of rental housing less feasible. So, this helps with the Rental Registration issue some as well.

    In my view, legislation [ordinances] to try & replace investment has been politically expedient and representative of a lack of leadership and courage from all our past & present City leaders.

    Years, if not decades, of being too business-friendly and ignoring the decline of the neighborhoods is taking a toll. In addition, lack of leadership for a coordinated effort between RISD Board(s) & the City Council(s)has been very detrimental as well.

    The quality of the schools was a driving force to the desirability of Richardson and its property values as far back as the late
    60s, and in my opinion, there must be a renewal of this effort plus substantially more investment by the City for us to have any chance of reversing the decline of many of our neighborhoods.

  11. Investment brings jobs and tax revenue. Investing in infrastructure does nothing to bring investment. Regulation stifles investment. Some seem to think investment in rental property brings a neighborhood down. No investment and no jobs bring neighborhoods down.

    Abatement or buyout monies come from somewhere. I don’t know any service or product the city produces that provides this kind of capital. Picking and choosing who can invest, where they can invest, how they can invest, and what they can invest in does nothing to promote growth.

    I’m not for returning to the days of steel armadillos and a tire alignment store on every corner, but an auto repair on every corner instead of an empty structure might be better.

    If Richardson pays a company to come to our city what’s to stop another from paying them to go to their city. It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance. A company or investment partnership should want to come to Richardson because there is less resistance or less regulation. There should be a law against bribing investors with tax payer money.

  12. Luke Lukas @ 2/19/2013

    Unfortunately, there IS a law allowing municipalities to bribe investors.

    "Investment in infrastructure does nothing to bring investment."

    Don't buy your premise - Take a look at street conditions in older built out suburbs like Richardson - Bounce and shake on the streets in the neighborhoods - not an incentive for someone to invest and try to get workers to move where that investment is.

  13. Young people listen well.

    Get out while you can!

  14. Dear Anonymous @ February 19, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    Thanks for the reply. Can you be more specific to which streets you are referring to in Richardson?? Our older built out suburb is considering another revitalization experiment where they give homebuyers (not investors) $10,000 to buy and improve homes in specific areas of the city. They probably should take care of the streets first, then the screening walls, then neighborhood entry-ways and then the rentals.

    Our city brags about 30 new codes and regulations over the last ten years and we wonder why we have so much vacant rental square footage. You’re telling me we have bouncing and shaking over dilapidated streets in Richardson neighborhoods’ and they’re braggin’ about being the first to adopt ‘International’ standards for occupancy in North Texas. Which btw, Texas Property Code has already established occupancy limits. We don’t need to abide by International standards. Next they’ll want to call our buck an ‘amero-peso-pelt’.

    We can’t even over night ‘on street park’ without a special permit from the city watch dogs. Stop trying to out do all the other cities with regulations and codes. (not you commenter, our city leaders).

    I apologize for getting off track. I just re-watched the Richardson City Council work session from Monday night (Feb 18). This was a good one:

  15. Luke Lukas February 20 @4:51

    Mr. Lukas:

    One example in the "duality" the City has regarding streets is West Shore north between Arapaho and Campbell, which then continues as University Drive.(one is prohibited from going straight across Campbell to University.) That trip north over alphalt patches and re-paches makes one's head wish it had steadi-cam technology.

    But travel north on University and you will be pampered by a smooth concrete roadway - not asphalt. Think the University built and paid for that concrete camino? Nope, it was paid for by Richardson taxpayers. Just like the around $2.4 million dollars Richardson will pay for the just now started additional concrete roadways and trails - all of which are on UTD's campus. And what's even stranger is THAT RICHARDSON VOTERS WERE MISLED INTO VOTING FOR THAT EXPENSE IN THE 2010 BOND ISSUE.

    One more example would be Melrose from West Shore to Coit. Several years ago, staff answered the question about street repair. They said in effect, "If the road was asphalt, it will be repaired with asphalt; if concrete, will be redone with concrete. Well, Melrose was concrete. Now except for small patches, it is now asphalt overlay - and the seams of the overlay aren't that good.

    Or the recent razor thin asphalt overlay at the "S" curve going east on Arapaho just before the light - the overlay is already gone in a significant area. What did the City pay for that, and why hasn't it been fixed? (Maybe the City hasn't heard from their consultant on what to do about it.)

    And then of course, there is the "bridge to Nowhere" over 75 built as a favor for Fossil, who no longer owns the property the bridge connects.

  16. If you think the west side streets are bad, come over to the east side.
    And now omar wants to give $10-$20 thousand to people who buy houses in Richardson. This is so they can update the homes. And just where will this money come from? I will NEVER vote for a bond package again, and I know I am not alone in thinking this. When I moved here many years ago, Richardson was THE Premier city. No more. It was equal to Highland Park in reputation.
    I get sick of the guy who says this is not "the old white man's city anymore" saying the other ethnic groups have moved in, and saying they are more educated and forward thinking. Not true. The education and income level have fallen. Even in Canyon Creek, the number of children who are on the "free lunch program" is about 50% last I heard. I sure don't like the coaltion group, but it was the "old white men" who made this country what it is.

  17. Change is the only constant. Wanting things as they were 20-30 years ago is SO UNREAL (or a sign of aging).

    Based on the 2010 census, the racial makeup of the population was:
    Richardon: White 58.1% Hispanic 16% Asian 15.1% Black 8.6%
    Plano: White 58.4% Asian 16.9% Hispanic 14.7% Black 7.6%

    Plano has a little bit more Asians than Richardson, but about the same % of whites.

    Median Household Income: (R) $70,228 (P) $82,901
    Persons below poverty level: (R) 10.3% (P) 7.1%
    Persons 65 years and over: (R) 12.6% (P) 8.9%

    Educated Chinese and Indian professionals choose Plano or Collin County because
    1) Good schools are the top priority for them.
    2) They like newer homes.
    3) They like big homes for extended family.
    4) They don't feel welcome in Richardson because there are many people like you here!

    Old white people trying to hang on by their nails to the old ways isn't going to revitalize Richardson.

    "the number of children who are on the "free lunch program" is about 50% last I heard"
    What is the number and what is the source?
    This is the type of statement that perpetuates atmosphere of unfactual prejudice.

  18. Anonymous @ February 23, 2013 at 10:07 AM. As a matter of fact buddy, I am an American of mixed- race heritage. I just happen to appreciate those "old white men" who "hung on by their nails" to make this country what it is. All my life I have been supported by white, black, brown and asian Americans in many ways. I still think that is the way our country should be . I just love it when jerks like you become racist; yes, I mean racist, slamming good people that want good things for this city and also the country. As I said before, the coalition is only out for themselves, and not the good of the city. But there are Many "old white men" , and women, who are not that way.
    To address some of your statistics, in 2011, according to CNN money, the median income was just above $82,000 in Richardson. Seems it has dropped. As for the % of children involved in the free lunch program, I will get the exact figures and source. Since I am involved with RISD, it could have been on internal paperwork, or by word of mouth; however, I did read it somewhere and will get back to you.
    As for wanting this the way they may have been in the past, why is it wrong to have good schools, sound infrastructure, and a city that is frugal?
    As for "people like me " ( you obviously think I am white, which I'm not.) these white people are on the verge of electing a middle-eastern American for Mayor. People like you are the real racists who spew scatalogical drivel non-stop. And you make a great argument for people to leave Richardson for other cities.