Friday, July 14, 2006

Letter to the editor - June 9, 2005

City ignores commitments on downtown

The StarPhoenix

June 9, 2005

As a councillor, Don Atchison said, "I treat each dollar like it is coming out of my own pocket." With that in mind, residents have a right to be concerned with the city's handling of the South Downtown.

When the draft concept plan was released in April 2004, the city's $1,000-a-day consultant, Gwyn Symmons, told council that the hotel site was prime real estate that will "attract a lot of interest from both inside and outside Saskatoon."

It turned out that virtually no one was interested -- except for one developer seeking outrageous tax concessions and subsidies to build a hotel many say we don't need.

Mayor Atchison repeatedly has said there would be no tax breaks or subsidies on the hotel site, and that the private sector needs to pay for it. Will he keep his word?

In May, Atchison talked about getting full value for the land, yet the $1.6-million offered by Remai Ventures Inc. is considerably below the $2.9 appraised value cited in the city's Nov. 15 River Landing capital budget.

Council has never publicly debated why the Gathercole land, the most important piece of property in Saskatoon, must be sold to a developer instead of being leased. The SP and the Meewasin Valley Authority, which had advocated leasing the land, are now silent.

Since the mayor claimed in 2004 that he isn't interested in spending public money on the Gathercole site, his strategy seems to be to spend whatever it takes -- the latest splurge being to sink the $10 million in federal centennial funding into the cultural centre. Unfortunately, the public has never been asked how it would like to see its tax dollars spent.

"Simply put, nothing has been proposed so far that will elicit a wow from a visitor to Saskatoon or anyone hearing of the Landing to make her want to visit the city," said The SP on March 11. Remai's lone, underwhelming proposal confirms that, and likely paints council into a corner.

Joe Kuchta

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2005


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