Tuesday, May 05, 2009

May Town Center Developer Offers to Wing Planning Commissioners to Development of His Dreams

According to Michael Cass, the coxswain of the May Town Center project is offering to fly Metro Planning Commissioners aboard an expensive corporate jet at inexpensive commercial prices to Virginia to give them a tour of another development that "inspired" the MTC concept.

May Town Center opposition leader, David Briley, underscored the not so trivial point that the trip would violate the state's open meeting law. The May Town Center developers are already funding the Planning Commission's "independent" traffic impact study of the concept. Offering to subsidize more opportunities to convince commissioners of the legitimacy of their concept smells like influence peddling to me.

UPDATE: Katie Hill points to the frightening absurdity of relying on Reston, Virginia as a model:
The idea that Reston, Va. -- sprawl capital of the universe -- epitomizes good urban planning to these guys is truly scary.

LATER UPDATE: CM Michael Craddock tells Fox News that the trip poses a conflict of interest:
Metro Planning Commission spokesman Craig Owensby says of the trip:

"it could be useful information, but the commissioners would pay their own way if any of them choose to attend, and I'm not aware of any who have."

Metro Councilman Michael Craddock believes none should.
"If the developer were to pay for it, it would be a conflict of interest. If the taxpayers paid for it, we don't have the money to pay for it - they just don't need to do it."

EVEN LATER UPDATE: Two more council members question the appropriateness of Planning Commissioners accepting developers offer:
Councilwoman Emily Evans said the offer was inappropriate at any cost.

"The Planning Commission is supposed to consider the body of evidence delivered at a public hearing, not on a chartered trip to Washington, D.C.," Evans said. "I sincerely hope none of our commissioners accept that." ....

Jim Gotto, a member of the Planning Commission and the Metro Council, said he appreciates Giarratana's offer but feels accepting it could send the wrong message.

"Somebody might think that would influence our decision, even if we pay for it," Gotto said. "The possible negatives of it outweigh any benefit."

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