It appears that a majority of the members of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the city should stand by pledges made in the previous administration to pay contested amounts to downtown developers.
It is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do.
Earlier this week commission members agreed among themselves to hold a vote at a Dec. 17 meeting on payment of $300,000 to developers of the downtown Cole apartments.
The payment had been questioned by some city officials because of questions about the process under which previous members of the commission had pledged to pay the amount as a final inducement for Indianapolis-based Buckingham Corp. to seal the deal on the $18 million
One of those who questioned the legitimacy of the original understanding was Mayor Kristen Brown, but it appears that she has since modified her stance and attempted to find ways to work with The Cole developers.
The Cole arrangement was not the only long-standing question about money said to be owed to downtown developers. The commission has also agreed to pay $21,021 to the owner of Scotty’s Burger Joint for unpaid construction costs on the eatery in The Commons.
While the mayor and others had good reasons to be concerned about the manner in which these expenses were incurred, it does appear that officials in the previous administration made these commitments. For the city to back away from these commitments would be wrong, regardless of the manner in which the original promises were made.
Put on a more basic level, stepping away from these commitments could have been far more expensive for the city than the amounts which are at issue.
The financial costs alone could be enormous. Should any of the parties contest this failure to pay through a court action, the city would automatically incur thousands of dollars in legal expenses. Should city officials lose such a lawsuit, they might not only have to pay the original amount but interest and any penalties that might be imposed by the court.
Far more damaging, however, would be the stain on the city’s reputation. Walking away from this commitment could scare away untold numbers of potential investors. That’s something Columbus can’t afford.