WHITE FUNDRAISER RAISES DOUGH AND LIFTS HOPE … PLUS … WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE THE BB etc. ARE IGNORING THE PEDA STORY? THE PLANET PROVIDES MORE CLUES, FEARLESSLY SHARING INFORMATION ‘THEY’ WOULD RATHER KEEP QUIET
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, DEC. 27, 2011) — The initial reports for the fundraiser held last night at Chameleon’s for Peter White‘s mom speak of an evening of support, highly successful in raising money and spirits. THE PLANET was honored to have contributed in a small way, and we acknowledge everyone who joined to reach out to help those in need. We couldn’t begin to list all those who helped, and we won’t try. We do, though, want to offer special thanks to:
* Andy Poncherello, who saw the need, got on his horse, and drove this event to fruition. Andy is a special man who has brought to Pittsfield not just a much-needed injection of entrepreneurial energy but also a large dose of empathetic service.
* Chameleon’s, the night club that had to run through hoops to please the city’s licensing cranks to come into existence. They said “yes” without hesitation and have shown themselves to be great community citizens.
Boring Broadsheet Continues Serving Up the Dregs
Anyone else notice how, even by its shamefully low news “standards,” the Boring Broadsheet continues to surprise with how deep it rakes the bottom of the barrel? First, over the weekend, we get the story of how fantastically the local ski operators are doing in this winter of no snow. THE PLANET has talked with many skiers and boarders, and they tell of Deadsville on area slopes.
The BB, though, by GOB orders, cannot report this. No, they have to do a fluff piece straight out of the pages of the Chamber of Commerce Digest, telling you of how great thou art, business. It’s not just any business. This is the “economic engine” of R&R — recreation and resort, where the Vested Interests hear, see, speak, and publish no truth that runs counter to their fiction.
Next, do you notice how they stay away from large stories that affect every single person in its circulation area? THE PLANET has covered countless of these, including, just recently, the GE Consent Agreement and lingering industrial poisons, the financial and performance dysfunction of the Pittsfield School Department, the Not-for-Profit tax ripp-off that has removed hundreds of millions of dollars from the tax coffers, and, most recently, the serious issues raised by the unilateral suspension of the restrictions negotiated for the PEDA site.
Circulation at the BB has dropped below 18,000, with many leaving each day. The paper perpetuates this cycle by its timid and tame news hole. This county has only three legitimate news operations: THE PLANET, the Berkshire Record, and the Pittsfield Gazette. Each of the latter two — the former a weekly in Great Barrington and that latter a Pittsfield weekly — have leaders who make the difference. The first is David Scribner, ex-of the BB. The second is Jonathan Levine. No one knows better than this address what it takes to fearlessly cover the news locally. We applaud both.
Getting Underneath the Propaganda to Solve Great Mystery: What’s Going on at PEDA? What’s Up with the ‘Prohibited Use’ Shopping Center?
It’s amazing how quickly the BB reported as Gospel everything the GOBs fed it regarding the proposed shopping center for the PEDA site. They went with “EVA 1,000 New Jobs” type coverage, and in its editorial (unsigned, as always) wove tapestries of praise on the project, as if it were a done deal about to begin tomorrow.
THE PLANET has been the only media source exploring the implications of this move, particularly the apparent suspension of due process when it comes to governing law in this case, which is, of course, the Consent Agreement and all of the PEDA enabling documents, including its Master Plan. When the miracle announcement came of the intended use of a shopping center, the PEDA Master Plan suddenly couldn’t be accessed on the web. An astounding coincidence, no doubt. This did not prevent us, though, from digging out Appendix D, which lists acceptable and prohibited uses. We ask: Why is it that THE PLANET is the only media outlet that can find such documents? Is it simply because we choose to look and won’t give up at the first roadblock?
Maybe now Tom Hickey‘s reign at PEDA can get the credit it deserves. Hickey faced numerous battles to bring the site to construction phase, and only he can provide the play-by-play. And only Hickey can speak of keeping GOB horses at bay when they wanted to stampede proposed uses for PEDA that weren’t appropriate. We would invite him to tell us what he know, in his own way, and in his own due time.
The proposed shopping center by Waterstone Development, a Needham, Mass., developer, would build a project on the PEDA that is strictly prohibited by the law as written. PEDA enabling documents prohibit any form of retail (mall, shopping center, etc.). The announcement of the shopping center means one of two things:
(a) Either the PEDA board is breaking its own laws or
(b) They have changed the rules. We see no third possibility.
If PEDA is doing (b), when did this amendment occur? Would this not have to be a public process? Unless we have missed it, THE PLANET is not aware of an exception being sought, debate having occurred, or a vote having been taken. PEDA director Corydon Thurston and board chairman Gary Grunin, correct us if we are wrong. Also, please tell us how, when, where, why, and for what reason you made this change in the game.
Rush to Judgment, but Why?
There are many things that have to happen before the proposed shopping center gets the green light. The BB, city hall, and everyone else who’s reported on the story has ignored this aspect. Why? One theory is that this Waterstone project is mostly political, being done with no chance of success to embarrass Mayor-elect Dan Bianchi. This would explain the odd timing of the announcement of the Waterstone project: With a couple weeks left in a lame duck administration.
The project faces enormous hurdles, and Bianchi will have two choices: He will have to deal with them (its his mess now) and if he fails, he takes the hit or he will fight the project as a legal tar pit. Either way, he will be set up nicely to fail.
Let us, as best we can, share what lies ahead for the project itself.
Remember, the PEDA site exists, we all thought, to serve as a manufacturing and high-tech campus that would be what Dan Fox didn’t become. Apparently, that’s all changed. Now that a prohibited use has been offered, what happens next?
The first step, according to sources familiar with the process and with PEDA from a planning standpoint, “is the consent agreement with GE. Does it accept the revised proposal, or could it be amended [so GE could] accept it”? The GE component has been noticeably absent from the discussion. They would have to agree on a prohibited use. Did they? When? Where is the proof? Thurston, Grunin, and the PEDA board owe We The People an explanation.
Other question follow and must be answered:
* Who owns the property?
* Does PEDA accept the wording of the Consent Agreement? Does PEDA, that is, the executive board, accept the wording of its own Master Plan regarding prohibited use? Was there a formal vote taken to change the plan, or did they just ignore it, remove it from their website, and count on the BB not looking into this?
* Does the mayor accept it? Will Mayor Jimmy Ruberto‘s actions be incumbent upon Mayor-elect Dan Bianchi?
* Does any of this need City Council approval?
The question of ownership of the land is vital. Source: “A tenant isn’t going to sign a land lease if the chain of ownership is unclear. Maybe the shopping center developer has their ducks in a row. I can’t really say, although I was unimpressed with their portfolio. It was pretty sketchy, actually.”
Why doesn’t this surprise intelligent onlookers, that Corydon et. al., on behalf of PEDA and in the name of We The People, would accept the proposal from a developer that has left planners, lawyers, and others in the loop underwhelmed? Why?
Sources familiar with the developer call Waterstone “a small owner with marginal to poor properties elsewhere.” The developer’s track record, according to a source, shows that the company “cannot leverage co-tenentcy,” defined as “retailers desiring to be close to or avoid other certain retailers, across properties — a pivotal component for financing a development.”
Environmental Review Would be Necessary
No mention, either, in any of the BB’s coverage or anywhere else, of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). The initial environmental notification for the PEDA property was given on SEpt. 24, 2005. A Inside Source: “At that time, it was for Phase 1, and under the old law, an Environmental Impact Review (EIR, which is a more-in-depth examination) was not warranted. That all changes with altered developments.”
In other words, plowing ahead with a non-approved or, to be more accurate, a restricted use would appear to make obsolete the MEPA notice for the property. Now, it appears, an EIR would have to occur — if, that is, the parties are following their own laws.
This story is only getting “curiouser and curiouser,” as Adam Cartwright oft noted to Hop Sing. Tomorrow, we continue with more. Stay tuned. We invite your comments below. THE PLANET, again, asks that all correspondents take the high road, be adult, contribute to the discussion, and leave vitriol in the sewers. Contribute. Don’t stumble. Get involved. Be forceful but don’t get ignorant. Thanks.
AS WE GAZE AT THE SUN, WE SEE ICARUS, FLYING HIGHER AND HIGHER, HIS WINGS GETTING ALL DRIPPY. WE LOVE HIM FOR HIS ATTEMPT, THOUGH, AND …
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.