Wednesday, October 6, 2010

City Hall Runaround

Yes, another one.  Another one brought to light by the FW Weekly.  Don't miss it!

Several lines we read kept reminding us of the Trinity River Vision.  Any of this sound familiar?

“The city hasn’t met with businesses nearby, and they are pushing this through without any data,” said Early Davis, vice president of the Association of Businesses of the Cultural District. “It seems like everything is being kept secret.”

In the case of the Harley Avenue project, the arena that it would theoretically serve has not yet been approved by voters in a bond election, and that approval is not likely to be sought before 2013. But city staffers told the Fort Worth Plan Commission a few weeks ago that the project needs to be done in 2011, to ease traffic congestion on Harley, improve parking access, and to encourage economic development.

Another Plan Commission member, architect Bob Kelly, questioned the alleged economic development benefit.

The plan for Harley “makes no sense,” said one local real estate developer with interests in Cultural District, who asked that his name not be used. “If the rodeo arena is approved by voters, then there is still plenty of time to build this road while the arena is being constructed. But there are so many transportation projects in this city that need to be funded, and how this got to up high on the list is sort of outrageous.”

Despite those concerns, the commission went along with city staff recommendations and voted unanimously to make the new alignment part of the city’s master thoroughfare plan.

In the meantime, the plan is for the city to lend itself $1.75 million from another pocket to fund the project. That pocket is the city’s aviation fund, which has grown fat with profits from Barnett Shale gas drilling at city airports. By federal law that money must be used only at those airports — but the city is availing itself of a loophole that allows it to lend the money for other projects, as long as the funds are repaid with interest. The loan would be for three years, with interest totaling about $230,000, according to city estimates.

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