Who's Handing Out Misinformation?
First, I'm not opposed to the project or the development; it would be nice to have more retail choices so the marketplace could sort out the winners and losers. While I might not be up on allthe little details, I understand the basic difference between the Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) and the Transportation Development District (TDD). And I understand the difference between a tax abatement and directly taxing citizens. Let's look at some specifics from the DSJ article.
The DSJ cited the developer, stating "some people think this is a giveaway to them from the city." A direct quote was "Technically, we have been given nothing by the community." Technically, he's right: the city hasn't given the developer money directly; instead, it has allowed the developer to take money from the citizens without the city acting as a middleman. Practically, I fail to see any significant difference.
According tothe DSJ, the developer said he didn't go for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) because he was "told it would be unpopular here." I expect so, especially with the Mayor's wife, who is on the local school board that would be affected by a TIF. In addition, use of a TIF on undeveloped property is exactly the type of abuse that is likely to be curbed wither by the legislature or by voter initiative.
The DSJ also says the developers don't want to use eminent domain on the church. Now, I'm the one who made that issue public and I did so after a conversation with a member of that church. The developer may not have any long-term plans to condemn the property, but the church member certainly had that concern. However, any talk of condemnation is likely to be moot if the eminent domain reform efforts aren't derailed by "economic development" special interests.
The DSJ article further goes on to quote the developers lauding the city staff. It's now in the open - the city made the overtures to Wal-Mart, just as I suspected. I still think Wal-Mart signed on because the alternative was worse. While it is true that Wal-Mart is involved in a TDD down at Warsaw, their new store was the anchor of the development, not a well-established on-going operation.
A lot comes down to a question of values. If economic development is accepted as good, does it thus follow that otherwise-objectionable actions are ennobled? According to my values, it is objectionable to take money from the citizenry without their consent and give that money to another citizen. The ends, however worthy, do not justify the means.