Today, the Fayetteville Observer published an in-depth article about parking for the new downtown stadium. The article confirmed what I blogged about a month ago and what many Fayetteville residents still do not know:
The 14.7 million dollar parking deck that the city is paying for with your tax dollars will not be used for general public parking during baseball games and stadium events.
The reason a majority of the public is unaware of this fact is because it has been kept under wraps. All of the details surrounding the deck have been conducted in closed meetings, and the city’s numerous construction and lease contracts with Prince Charles Holdings concerning the hotel and parking deck have not been posted on any city website. Compare this to the dozens of documents you can easily find online memorializing our agreements with the Houston Astros.
There are two reasons the Astros documents are advertised by the city and the Prince Charles Holdings documents can’t be found without a public records request:
- Most people would probably support construction of the baseball stadium after reading the Astros documents (as I do).
- Most people probably wouldn’t support an expenditure of 14.7 million of their tax dollars to build a parking deck next to the stadium if they couldn’t use it. In short, people don’t want their money going to pay for someone else’s deck.
Another thing to keep in mind is the way the parking deck is being financed. We’re using tax incremental financing (TIF). Typically, when the city borrows money for a large construction project, it’s in the form of a bond. A bond must be approved by a majority of voters in an election. (TIF) does not. This means that the city council has chosen to borrow almost 15 million dollars on your behalf to build this deck without your express consent. Once borrowed, this money must be paid back, with interest, using your tax dollars. The council made this decision in closed, back-room sessions with Prince Charles Holdings and their attorneys and kept the terms of the deal out of the public eye.
The city calls “Project Homerun” (our deal with Prince Charles Holdings) a “public-private partnership.” What is the “public” piece of this partnership, apart from the public’s tax dollars being used to fund it? I’m not seeing it.
Fayetteville leaders need to let the free market work, not attempt to stimulate it with speculative plans backed by borrowed money. If it makes economic sense to build a hotel next to the stadium, then someone will see that economic need and fill it without government assistance. The problem is, it makes a lot more sense to build a public parking deck on the land next to the baseball stadium. We have wasted an opportunity here, and I’m afraid attendance at the games will suffer.
It truly bothers me that basic information about a 14 million dollar project has taken this long to get into the public discourse. Only after the deal has been sealed and the city council has voted to borrow the money to buy the deck do we learn that we can’t use it.
Read the Observer article for yourself, and start saving your quarters for the parking meters. You’re going to need them for the ballgames, if you can find a space.