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YMCA and Menomonie St. Blight

Written By: Editorial  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

YMCA wants to build a multi-million dollar facility at the corner of Menomonie St. and Clairmont Ave., an area of Eau Claire that sits empty except for the few times it is used as a parking lot for large nearby events.

The City owns the property.  Two years ago the YMCA "bought" the land under the contingency that it breaks ground on its new building in two years.  The time has passed and now the YMCA wants another year to come up with $25 million.

Here's the problem - two of them.  Why does the city own that property?  I am fine with them holding on to it if they want to have a parking lot.  But I get the idea that the city is trying to determine how that property should be developed and therefore will only sell the property to whoever will build something that they approve.

And that's the second problem.  Why is the city government in charge of what gets built in the city?  Whether it's what type of sign can be posted on your lawn to billboards - whether it is what type of housing to factories; zoning, regulations, and other city planning goals gives Eau Claire a level of control over what we private property owners can build on our own properties.  Who gave them this authority?  By what right?

So we have a situation where property owners can't increase the value of their property unless they go through all the hoops and pay the bribe, I mean, permit fee.  And a situation where the City actually owns a property it wants developed yet they seem unable to have done so for a whole generation.

The Answer?  Since the City can't make up its mind, let the people develop it.  "But wait," someone might say.  "There are so many opinions as to how to develop that property.  How do we decide who gets their way?"

The problem is the word "we."  When someone gets the idea that "we" should decide something corporately, it requires the government to step in and make the final decision as to what the "we" wants.  And we are back to our original problem.

The property should be developed by the person willing to pay the highest price for the property.  Then they should be able to develop the property without any contingencies or loopholes.  If they want to build a fitness center, fine.  If they want to build a warehouse or a housing development, great!  If they want to build a fence and a gate and charge people for parking, wonderful!  The point is the person who decides to buy the property should be the one who decides what to do with it.

If you think the new owner's ideas are ugly, then offer the City a higher bid.

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