Government-directed vs. government-facilitated

Government-directed vs. government-facilitated

Kudos to Brian Lawrence, executive director of the Westmoreland County Land Bank. With a qualification, that is.

As the Tribune-Review reports it, the site that once housed the long-closed Derby’s Restaurant in downtown Greensburg is on the market.

The land bank, in conjunction with the city, acquired and demolished the century-old building last year at a cost of $128,000. It’s now ready to be sold and once again become a productive property, Lawrence says.

And, refreshingly, he adds:

“We try our best to let the private market figure it out for use. This property had a bad actor owner and separating him from the property and getting that building down was our priority. At this point, it seems our job is kind of done.”

Hear! Hear!

Unfortunately, Lawrence apparently could not leave well enough alone.

As the Trib notes, citing Lawrence, a buyer will be selected based on multiple factors, including financial offers for the site.

OK, so good so far.

Continues the Trib:

“According to a request for proposals, the county will consider plans for residential and commercial uses for the property and a buyer’s financial ability to complete the project.”

Again, sounds prudent, sounds good.

But then there’s this:

“We will entertain any type of community use,” Lawrence said. “Doing it this way we will have a say as to what the community wants.”

Hold the phone!

Coupling “We try our best to let the private market figure it out for use” with “(W)e will have a say as to what the community wants” is a government-generated non sequitur.

Should any potential bidder meet the county’s basic criteria – primarily the bidder’s financial wherewithal but also including existing zoning allowances – it should solely be the winning bidder’s decision as to what is built on the property.

It should not be “what the community wants” beforehand (supposedly to be determined by the county) but what the developer believes is worth his or her investment and risk and allowing the free and open marketplace to accept or reject it once it’s built.

Period.

Anything less smacks of government-directed development instead of what it should be – government-facilitated development. And, sadly, too often, those in government confuse the former for the latter or simply don’t understand the difference.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).