The Edmond Sun

April 13, 2012

LETTER: The Medicine Men came to Edmond

Special to The Sun

EDMOND — To the Editor:

A level playing field in Edmond may never be the same after the workshop at the City Council Chambers April 10 at high noon. The medicine men sold the audience on how wonderful the new complex will be at the corner of Interstate 35 and Covell.

Listening intently to the developers showing a 170,000-square-foot indoor sports complex and a multi-level 165-room hotel with 20,000-square-foot conference center the attendees of the open meeting could almost see the sales tax dollars rolling in. It was supported by the Assistant City Manager Steve Common’s positive input.

In Edmond’s past (prior to 2012) developers always had to go the extra mile to please Edmond’s staff, fire departments and inspectors to go through a development with land, a large enough detention area, and many times had to give up land to the city to secure a building permit, such as a 17-foot right-of-way for road widening. Lots of developers thought of this as extortion.

Times have changed. Here is the 2012 pitch, which has some of the city leaders very excited. The new program is extortion in reverse. The builders or developers will build at this corner if the city will purchase a 19-acre track for $2 million for a sports complex and a 7.5-acre track for $2.2 million for a hotel and convention center.

Now the financial gymnastics kick in. When the city owns the land it is automatically taken off the property tax rolls. When asked about the structures built on this non-taxable land, they will not be taxed either.

Edmond Public Schools receive about 62.5 percent of the property tax, Francis Tuttle receives about 1.48 percent, Oklahoma County-wide schools .38 percent, and the Metropolitan Library System received .49 percent from the ad valorum, or property tax.

This project with the sports complex and hotel will run well more than $50 million untaxed.

I know a convention center is needed and would be nice, but to subsidize the developers with $11 million toward a facility with no property tax makes the playing field very difficult for existing hotels, sports complexes, fitness centers and restaurants to compete with these new non-taxed entities..

The three elected and two appointed City Council members must decide what is fair for present business owners and what is best for the city. In my opinion if Edmond is the hot spot for conventions, private industry would already have made the move.

Pete Reeser