Leaked: The Internet must go!

Hey! Are you on the internet right now? Of course you are! Then you should definitely check out this amazing video about what the internet companies are planning. This move could hurt both consumers and content creators--but of course would be a huge windfall for internet providers.

How weathly are Americans?

The disparity in wealth between the richest one percent of Americans and the bottom 80 percent has grown exponentially over the last thirty years — but the video, posted by user politizane and relying on data from a popular Mother Jones post, focuses on the difference between the ideal disparity that Americans would like to see and the reality.

Tax the Rich

So long! It's been fun.

Dear listeners,

In July 2011 I started a new job teaching Italian at Kansas State University. In some ways this was a return to my roots, as I taught English as a Foreign Language for 17 years in Italy. Now I am teaching English speakers Italian. I've come full circle.

This coming full circle also means the end of an attempt on my part to start a new career in my 50s. Sadly, as much as I tried to bring community radio to Manhattan, I was not successful. So I have decided to dedicate my energy and time to my first love, being an educator.

The archive of my shows will remain active - there's a lot of great content in the shows. So I hope you continue to listen and enjoy them.

Once again thank you for your support and encouragement over the five years the show was on the air. I know many feel that my program needs to be on the air and I agree with you that a diversity of voices is sorely lacking in the local media. But alas, it is not I who will bring that diversity. It will have to be someone else.

Christopher E. Renner

31 December 2007

Commissioner Sherow's Comments at the Dec 18 City Commission Meeting

By Way of Introduction,

Let me be clear about a few things right from the get go.

First, I was elected to represent the citizens of this community, and I thank you all for being here and working to make our participatory democracy function. I also want to thank all who have written to me, called me, or visited with me about this issue. And whether I agree or disagree with my fellow commissioners, I accord each one good faith in his actions, thoughts, motives and ultimately their votes.

I, too, have watched the planning board meetings regarding this proposed amended PUD, and have taken careful note of what was said and presented in each meeting. From the first proposed amended PUD to the second, it is obvious DIAL has made some strides to address community concerns. Moreover, HyVee is a fine company, and may make a valuable contribution to the retailing in our community. It’s important for DIAL to understand that the issue here is one of design and accommodating the community vision.

PUDs require a higher standard of execution than do conventional zoning applications. The non-amended PUD represented the very minimum standard in terms of design acceptable to the community.

More importantly, while the City resources may be deeply invested in this redevelopment effort, the City needs to follow the same zoning procedures applicable to any applicant. In fact, the City should be a model applicant in every respect.

A Little Background on my involvement in Downtown Redevelopment and some history of how redevelopment has unfolded up to this point.

For several years I have been involved in historic preservation and traditional neighborhood revitalization efforts.

I first became aware of efforts toward Downtown redevelopment with Brent Bowman’s and the Chamber’s neighborhood presentations that sought community feedback. Across the board, people, including me, were excited about the prospects. Understand clearly that I want to see this Downtown redevelopment project work; I even wrote an editorial to that effect. I want to see this work – to meet high standards in urban design.

Then in 2003-04 I was appointed to serve on the Citizens Steering Committee for Downtown Redevelopment, and chaired its sub-committee on environment, design, and historic preservation. That committee, comprised of Gwyn Riffle (now president of DMI), Dave Colburn (member of the school board and manager of The Pathfinder), then mayor-elect Brad Everett, and Brend Foreoster (a former board member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and former dean of the School of Architecture at KSU), carefully studied, and debated the site design. We were all disappointed with the final concept reported out of committee in the spring of 2004.

We reported that we were concerned about too much surface parking for a legitimate urban development. We thought it looked too much like a strip mall than urban infill. We underscored the importance of housing, and while we accepted a projected 400 units of mix levels of housing, we asked that room be created for as many as 600. We asked if housing was key to the redevelopment, and the representatives from DIAL, RTKL, the Chamber, City Staff, all agreed that it was. We were also told that a good faith effort would be made to move about 5 serviceable bungalows and that the 4 square at the corner of Laramie and 4th along with the Strasser House would be integrated into the Redevelopment. What a rough road we have all traveled to end up where we are tonight.

In January 2005, at the Chamber Leadership Retreat in Kansas City, here’s what the plan for Downtown Redevelopment looked like at that time. (Show the site plan on the overhead.) Not one retail space exceeded 40,000 square feet, and there was a heavy emphasis on landscaping. The four square at the corner of Laramie and 4th Street, and Strasser House next to it were both slated for retention.

At the same retreat, Mr. Bob Welstead made a presentation in which he reported the following about acquiring leases for the north end.

33% of the square footage was under negotiation

32% of the square footage was under contract

13% of the square footage had contracts pending

22% of the square footage was under no obligations

Consider now Downtown Redevelopment News, Feb. 2005, and what it presented to the community as the goals for the project.

(Show the newsletter on the overhead)

1. Small Shop Retail

Specialty retail reflecting a local flavor serving both visitors and residents. Buildings are focal points of the project and shall be high quality signature designs.

2. Existing Buildings Remaining

Existing structures/uses that remain shall be integrated into the vehicle and pedestrian flow; will compliment the overall design of the district.

3. Restaurant Locations

Mix of National, Regional, and Local Dining experience that attracts visitor and locals to Downtown to serve new and existing downtown residents.

4. Major Retail

A mix of national and regional retailers that complement and enhance the Downtown shopping experience, while providing a pedestrian oriented environment with public spaces.

5. Townhomes

Old fashioned Row-houses and Townhomes set close to the sidewalk with raised first floors and distictive designs that are sensitive to existing residential communities to the west side of 4th St. Predominantly "For Sale" units.

6. Apartments/Condominiums

A mix of "Owner Occupied" and "For Lease"; unites with a variety of price points creating a mixed-income, diverse neighborhood that truly reflects the Manhattan community. There will also be ground floor office/retail options along 3rd Street.

This was the community expectations for the north end redevelopment.

Things got worse considerably worse after that.

By the end of summer 2005, RTKL was gone with no explanation why, and the DMI board began having some serious concerns about the direction of the project. RTKL was the main reason why anyone had faith in that the design would reflect community-wide expectations.

Soon afterward I began working with Downtown Manhattan, Incorporated, and served as chair of its economic development committee. DMI is a Main Street Program certified by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. DMI was and continues to be concerned about the design for redevelopment not meeting community expectations and purported public goals.

In August, several recommendations were made among which were:

1. Review the redevelopment economic feasibility analyses

2. Review the financing scenarios

3. Select a redevelopment oversight committee

4. Selection of an experienced real estate development coordinator

5. Update the 2002 Community of Manhattan Market Analysis

None of the above was acted upon except for the market analysis.

The Canyon Report, which was released this year, noted among its findings that:

1. Current Manhattan market reach had a gap of $20 m annually in grocery sales

2. Current Manhattan market reach had a gap of $22 m annually in higher end restaurant sales

3. Current Manhattan market reach could accommodate an additional 400,000 square feet of retail

Now, Real Estate Research Consultants findings report that our current market reach can support an additional 46,000 square feet of grocery while HyVee , depending upon how one wants to measure these things, wants at minimum 78,000 square feet with the possibility of expanding to well over 90,000 sq. feet. Even if the grocery portion were to be only 53,000 square feet, the store would still exceed current market capacity by at minimum 7,000 square feet.

Moreover, Real Estate Research Consultants did not factor into its calculations the effects of military purchases at the Fort Riley post commissionaire, sales at People’s Groceries or the International Grocery. Moreover, the grocery purchasing habits of university students were also excluded from its calculations. Obviously, something, somewhere has to give in our current grocery markets if HyVee is going to reach its full potential in this proposed location as a 90,000 plus square foot facility.

Also, Ray’s Supermarket has made it clear that a HyVee store of 64,000 square feet, which is what the PUD calls for, would be welcomed by it.

So, we do we stand now in terms of contracted square footage in the North End? Not much further along than we were in 2005. Why? Especially if, according to the Canyon Report, the city’s current market reach can accommodate an additional 400,000 sq. feet of retail?

Why is it that the core Downtown has no problem filling its retail sites when they come open? Why does the Mall have no difficulty filling spaces when they come open? Why does Seth Childs Commons and Heritage East have no problems filling their open retail spaces?

WHY DOES DIAL HAVE TROUBLE FILLING WHAT IS CALLED FOR IN THE PUD? AND WHY IS IT THE CITY’S RESPONSIBILITY TO BAIL THEM OUT WITH AN AMENDMENT TO THE PUD?

This current PUD, approved in June 2006, was a considerable step down, in my opinion, to what was proposed in 2005, a plan which many throughout the community had concerns about even back then.

But the community was assured that DIAL was well underway in securing its leases. By the summer of 2007, it was apparent that wasn’t the case, and Commission had to decide whether or to proceed with property acquisitions in the South End. I voted for that given that many property owners had already relocated and would be later waiting for their payments.

The city has a moral and ethical obligation to pay all the property owners in the South Side what is due them. No matter how it is done, whether through the STAR bonds or not, my vote will be to pay them what their contracts call for.

It is important that the South Side Redevelopment get done right regardless by which method the current property owners are paid. The conference center, hotel and theater makes the South End a viable development regardless what else is added to it including whether or not the discovery center becomes a part of it.

Why do so many in the community have a lack of trust in DIAL? One example amply illustrates this for me. At the end of the Summer 2007, Mike Mecseri, representing the preservation alliance, and myself met with Rick Kiolbasa to discuss the Strasser House. Besides lame promises for moving this stone house intact, I asked Rick about the housing that was to built in the North End.

I remember the conversation like this:

(JIM) Rick, will you have the housing built by December 2007

(RICK) Jim, that’s not part of the contract. (Reminded by city staff that indeed this was part of the North End Redevelopment agreement)

(RICK) Jim, those are simply guidelines.

Is this how DIAL treats its contractual obligations – as simply guidelines?

(JIM) This (moving the Strasser House and substantially changing the North End design) is going to get really hot!

(MIKE) There is considerable concern with North End design as it now stands. Changing it will raise a public outcry.

(RICK) I haven’t heard this.

Was DIAL officials listening at all before? And were we listen to then? No, not at all.

No surprise, then, that the planning board rejected out of hand by a 7 to 0 vote the first proposed amendment to the PUD.

Then DIAL submits a plan coming closer to the original PUD, but still DIAL isn’t meeting community expectations, and again, it’s rejected by a 4 to 2 vote.

As the City memo notes, a 64,000 square foot store could go in immediately without being reviewed by either the Planning Board, or the City Commission. So why are DIAL and HyVee pushing so hard for this larger version when a 64,000 square foot store would end the controversy. Why is HyVee so set on this larger design when it is building several 60,000 square foot stores in other locations? Obviously, it’s not a lack of ability to build a store of this size. So why hasn’t, and isn’t DIAL listening to the community?

DIAL and HyVee’s lack of concern for community expectations, fitting into the PUD, and meeting redevelopment goals shakes to the core my trust in them.

And now, here we are.

Let’s also consider what PUDs are suppose to accomplish, and what amending a PUD entails. Then, let’s see if DIAL has made a legitimate case for amending this PUD.

PUDs require a higher standard of execution than do conventional zoning applications.

Now is it true, as Rick Kiolbasa stated during the December 3, Planning Board meeting that:

"We’re providing an urban solution to a suburban problem."

I find this a disingenuous argument:

1. The district was never a suburban part of the city.

2. This plan has the distinct feel and look of a suburban strip mall

Does this proposed amendment truly meet the objectives in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan?

According to the staff it stated:

"7.Conformance with Comprehensive Plan.

The Manhattan Urban Area Comprehensive Plan shows the site as Central Core District (CCD), which is a special purpose designation for the Downtown Core. The amendment site is also designated as a primary redevelopment area for expansion of the Central Business District, in Downtown Tomorrow – A Redevelopment Plan for Downtown Manhattan, Kansas, adopted in May 2000. The proposed amendment conforms to the Comprehensive Plan."

Are there other aspects of the CLUP where the staff overlooked where conformance is lacking? Let’s review some other provisions of the CLUP beginnning with Chapter 4: Land Use and Growth Management. It states:

". . . to promote an urban development pattern that represents the sustainable use of land, energy and other resources by encouraging orderly, contiguous growth and minimizing single-use or low-density, dispersed development."

Goal #1: "Promote land use and development practices that consider current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, ensuring the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

One of the Guiding Principles: "Promote land use and development that protects investments and provides opportunities for individual initiative and choice."

Land Use Policies: Residential:

"The Comprehensive Plan encourages that new neighborhoods in the Manhattan Urban Area be designed as walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. They are intended to be a setting for a variety of housing types combined with complementary and supporting non-residential uses that serv the neighborhood and are designed and operated in harmony with the residential characteristics of a neighborhood . . . They shall be designed to include a network of direct and interconnected streets, pedestrian, and bicycle connections."

Commercial: Central Core District (CCD)

The CCD "consist of a variety of civic, cultural, retail, commercial, business and professional offices and financial institutions, as well as residential uses in a compact, vibrant setting enhanced by a large inventory of older, and in some cases historic, structures and a pedestrian-friendly scale. ‘Superstore’ and big box centers could be incorporated into identified redevelopment areas in the downtown core, if they are designed as part of a master planned development that is compatible with and complimentary to the traditional downtown urban fabric by maintaining a pedestrian oriented streetscape, and are of exceptional design quality."

This plan does not tie into the neighborhood to the west. The wall, street parking design, lack of pedestrian circulation patterns, poor design of the smaller apartments at the north end are all a poor fit and match to the neighborhood to the west. The residents there have a much better handle on this than does DIAL. Moreover, the housing is a poor economic development given that the units are over-priced by nearly 100% given current rates of around $300 per bedroom. This is not my vision, nor that of a majority in our community, of what a walkable, mix-use neighborhood is.

This amendment also does not promote practices that consider current and future economic . . . impacts. The market studies clearly show that something will have to give in our grocery markets if a store the size that HyVee wants goes in. Ray’s investment of $1 million and a 20 year lease at its eastside location is vulnerable as is the operations of Dillons. Also, there will be a loss to city property and sales tax revenues if this amendment is approved. What the final amount will be is a matter of informed debate, but a loss of some sizable amount will be felt.

So, this amendment fails to consider fully current and future economic . . . impacts.

DIAL insists that C4 Zoning doesn’t require off-street parking, and C4 Zoning allows for all of uses that DIAL proposes.

While this is true regarding C4 zoning, a PUD is intended to go far beyond in terms of quality design than what would have been required under the initial zoning designation, in this case C4. In other words, a PUD should supercede regular zoning classifications. So, providing adequate off street parking for the residential units is an important consideration for this

design.

Are Zoning Regulations adopted on October 3, 2006 duly considered? I think not.

Article IX, PUDs: Purpose and Objectives (IX-1)

1. A maximum choice of living environments by allowing a variety of housing and building types

2. A more useful pattern of open spaces and recreation areas

3. A development pattern in harmony with land use density, transportation facilities, and community facilities

4. An environment . . . which will afford greater opportunities for better housing, recreation, shops and industrial plants for all citizens of the community

5. A development plan [that] . . . results in a project that provides greater public benefit than would be provided under conventional zoning

6. A mixture of compatible uses which might not otherwise be permitted in a single district, or which may restrict the range of land uses more than in a single district.

(F)Character of the Neighborhood

The development should take into account the character of the area in which the development will be located and assure that proposed structures, signs and other improvements are compatible to both the proposed sit and surrounding neighborhood. (IX-5)

Again, the adjacent neighborhood is going to be adversely effected given how traffic is routed through the neighborhood, along 4th Street, and the parking is situated along 4th Street. Fourth Street is effectively working as a barrier to the neighborhood.

Consider this:

During an initial neighborhood meeting when redevelopment was first being proposed, I made one recommendation that relates to the importance of connecting redevelopment to existing neighborhoods. Brent’s initial plans called for cutting off Pierre Street at Fourth Street to "protect" the residential neighborhood. I made the argument that doing so would destroy the neighborhood. The neighborhood needed to tie into the redevelopment seamlessly, and had it been cut off then I think that the Boys and Girls Club would not be building at 5th and Pierre, nor would Big Brothers and Big Sisters have located their new office in the same neighborhood.

9-108 Amendments and Modifications

1. Whether the proposed amendment is consistent with intent and purpose of the approved PUD, and will promote the efficient development and preservation of the entire PUD;

2. Whether the proposed amendment is made necessary because of changed or changing conditions in or around the PUD, and the nature of such conditions; and

Tonight Mr. Welstead said that the amendment was necessary because:

"We need to amend the existing PUD to further the revitalization effort."

In the first place, I don’t see how this constitutes in any manner a changed or changing conditions in or around the PUD. If this amendment is arising from the needs of meeting the obligations of The North End Redevelopment Agreement, then it is very important to understand that the agreement is not part of the PUD. The PUD stands apart from the agreement, and the agreement itself, recognizes this as such. I quote from the FINAL DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT: "In the event there is a conflict between the requirements of the PUD and the Design Guidelines, or between the PUD and this Agreement, the requirements of the PUD shall control." p. 11

In a recent memo, city administration wrote that: "the proposed amendment to the Manhattan Market Place PUD is not a conventional rezoning from the City government perspective.

This raises some serious questions about what is the City government’s perspective: is it that of the staff, or the commission from whom nothing has been voiced until tonight? And who does the commission represent if but not the City, and is not the City the comprised of the people who live in it?

Again, I reiterate what I said earlier: While the City resources may be deeply invested in this redevelopment effort, the City needs to follow the same zoning procedures applicable to any applicant. In fact, the City should be a model applicant.

The memo goes on to state: "This particular PUD is part of a larger project in which the City is an active participant. It is a redevelopment project that not only has been approved by action of the City Commission but in which the City is a financial partner."

I take a different view of this. DIAL is supposed to be the economic tool whereby the community achieves its vision for redevelopment. What we have here is DIAL’s vision of redevelopment, one that does not conform to the wishes and aspirations of the community.

3. Whether the proposed amendment will result in a relative gain to the public health, safety, convenience or general welfare, and is not granted solely to confer a special benefit upon any person. (IX-21)

I don’t see a relative gain to the public health, safety, convenience or general welfare, but I do see granting a special benefit to DIAL as it has not made a case that conditions have changed in or around the PUD. Moreover, the tax revenue implications means that City revenues will suffer and thereby place a higher than warranted burden on taxpayers.

In conclusion, the ordinances establishing the Redevelopment Plans make it clear that, and I quote:

"The Project Plan permits the community, through its elected and appointed officials, as well as through input from its citizenry, to control the redevelopment of the City’s central business district in such a way that the design of the development is compatible with the desires of the community."

In this light, this amendment does not meet this objective at all.

What we have here, is DIAL’s plan for redevelopment, not that of the community’s as represented in the PUD.

In Summary:

1. In keeping with the stated goals of the ordinances that created this PUD in the first place, this proposed amendment does not represent the "input from the citizenry to control the redevelopment in a way compatible with the desires of the community."

2. The City is more than the opinion of its staff. The City embraces all of the citizens who live within its boundaries. Therefore, to meet the stated goals of the ordinances creating the PUD it is incumbent for the Planning Board and the City Commission to represent the will of the City writ large, which has expressed its overwhelming opposition to this proposed amendment.

3. The City staff has not made a case for this being an exceptional zoning request.

4. The proposed amendment to this PUD is not in conformance with the City Land Use Plan.

A. The amendment does not fit with the adjacent neighborhood

B. The apartments are a poor fit for the community in terms of design and economic viability

C. The amendment does not take into consideration current & future economic impacts on existing and future investments

5. The amendment is unnecessary because the applicant has not demonstrated any changed conditions in the environment of the current PUD – "to further revitalization efforts" is not a changed condition.

6. The current PUD meets only the minimum of community expectations and goals for the North End Redevelopment, and the proposed amendment reduces, not enhances, the quality of the current PUD.

7. Does the denial of this proposed amendment force an abandonment of the South End Project? Absolutely not!

There are viable options, which are beyond the responsibility of the Planning Board to devise. These are political questions suitable for the community to undertake and the Commission to implement.

A denial of this proposed will force DIAL to conform to the community expectations and goals as expressed in the original PUD.

There is less harm in admitting to making past mistakes, and in formulating a different way toward doing the South End than there is in approving an amendment that is unimaginative and produces low quality results.

Only a lack of will and imagination will force an abandonment of the South End Redevelopment, and not the denial of this proposed amendment to the PUD.

8. Most importantly, the financing of the South End Redevelopment, including the acquisition of STAR bonds, must not be the driving factor in the acceptance or denial of this PUD amendment. The standards for PUDs in the city of Manhattan should not be treated as inconvenient obstacles in the pursuit of a downtown redevelopment plan that has fallen far below the expectations of the original PUD and the general public.

The Final Development Agreement affirms this position:

"In the event there is a conflict between the requirements of the PUD and the Design Guidelines, or between the PUD and this Agreement, the requirements of the PUD shall control." p. 11

For the reasons that I have stated above, I will not support DIAL’s request to amend the PUD.

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