“Lincoln is a difficult place to do business”

March 14, 2006 at 1:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

It’s hard to disagree with John Camp’s assertion that “Lincoln is a difficult place to do business” after the City Council voted 4-3 to go with Mayor Seng’s 175,000 square foot restriction on big box retail at the Prairie Village North development. The developers followed the rules and even offered up extras (like covering $5 million in upfront infrastructure costs). The City, in return, changed the rules half-way through the game and sent the developer back to the drawing board.

Mayor Seng’s latest rationale for her preferred size restriction is many anchor stores in Lincoln’s “neighborhood centers” occupy 52 to 72 percent of the total retail square footage. A 175,000-square-foot store would fall within that range in Prairie Village North. There is not, of course, any actual such restriction in City ordinance, the Comprehensive Plan, or elsewhere. Mayor Seng is imposing a false requirement on developers constructed on a whim in reaction to a development she doesn’t care for. If Colleen Seng wants to enact some sort of “maximum ratio” for anchor stores, so be it. But she needs to have the integrity to write it down where developers can see it before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars following false leads and being strung along by the City. And for that matter, Seng’s Magic Ratio needs to be vetted in the appropriate manner, before the public, the City Council, the Planning Commission, and others.

It doesn’t matter what you think about Wal-Mart. It doesn’t matter what you think about a 230,000 square foot development at 84th and Adams. And it doesn’t matter if you like Mayor Colleen Seng or not. This situation is a perfect illustration of the unreasonable hurdles we ask investors to clear before we allow them the “privilege” of doing business in Lincoln. The City of Lincoln continually changes or muddies the existing rules in the middle of the process, or enforces odd and unreasonable rules, leaving investors scratching their heads. Such behavior is self-destructive and it needs to stop.

It is not too much to ask for a community to clearly outline its expectations of investors, and when those expectations are met, to welcome those investors—whether they be Wal-Mart, a restaurateur, or a homeowner—with open arms. Instead, we stand guarding the front door with our arms crossed, asking of each investor, “What makes you think you’re good enough for the likes of me?” Is it any wonder they bristle at our attitude?

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big daddy J March 14, 2006 at 10:29pm

I saw this on the news last night and it seemed really strange. I live in northeast Lincoln, and a Wal-Mart in that area would be pretty convenient. I just don’t understand what their point was.
And where did they come up with 175,000 square feet? By looking at what Wal-Mart wanted and subracting 10%?

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