In an unprecedented move Wareham scored a major victory on Tuesday November 6, 2012 when the City Council voted 3-2 (Asher and West voting NO) to provide General Fund Money to Wareham to clean up contaminated property, under the Amtrak parking lot. Wareham has approval to build a high rise project on the site, known as the Transit Center.”
Geoff Sears of Wareham Development is shown below addressing the Council on this issue. The former Redevelopment Agency has already spent $1.7 Million just to research the extent of the cleanup. The City Staff decided to make that investment years ago with the ap[approval of a majority of the Council. The City has never made a similar investment for any other private property owner. Accordingly, Sears said, Wareham never asked the Agency to spend the $1.7 million..?
The former Redevelopment Agency already set aside over $3 million of capital improvement money or approximately, one third of the $9 million necessary to clean up the property. That money came from other projects, which could have been used for other purposes. However, for the lack of spending that money, the money may now be lost to the State. In response the City has filed a lawsuit against the State.
Out of desperation to keep an agreement between Wareham and city manager Pat O’Keeffe, we have created an unprecedented solution to pledge future General Fund money for the cleanup.
The question must be asked. Why has the city chosen to make such a large investment in this property and making it such a priority. the land. Why invest your money in the most contaminated site in town. It appears the Staff decided this prime property use should not be limited to surface parking. This site does not pose the same risk as other polluted sites because it has been sealed by the US. EPA, and can only be used as a parking lot.
When the council made the decision to invest in the cleanup, it was with the understanding the cleanup would remove the threat a future earthquake could allow the toxins to escape and contaminate our groundwater. However, we have recently learned the cleanup only removes a portion of the top soil, and thereby does actually remove the underlying threat. This is just one more example of Wareham’s power to obtain special benefit.
Why take on such a challenge? when there was other places to put that money. It is the challenges which have caused this problem.
Staff argues, without the project we would not have that money. Isn’t that true for every project? Ten years from now when we are hurting for money we will be paying Wareham money they should be paying us.
Is this a new policy to give away prospective general fund money to encourage development. The height limit for this property was increased, in part to pay for these costs. The newly adopted General Plan will not provide sufficient revenue to meet the city’s future needs. We believe Wareham would, or should pay to clean up this property without the City assistance. To their credit they know how to work the Staff and City Council to their best advantage.
The Staff has worked too closely with Wareham to provide benefits don’t seem to be there for other property owners. This is similar to the North Hollis Utility Underground District, where it seems the Staff made a deal with Wareham to reimburse them for their cost to underground the utilities at the expense of other property owners.. Wareham will be reimbursed for up to $3 million of the cost of the cleanup of this site with 12 years of funds which would otherwise go to the City General Fund. In addition, public parking will be provided at the Transit Center, which will be maintained by the City, which further enhances the value and use of the transit center.
This is a bad deal, we will be paying for a long time.