Richardson's City Council election is over. Come Monday when the council meets to canvass the results, Mayor Laura Maczka will no longer be mayor if, as she previously announced, she declines the second term voters had no choice but to elect her to. Surely it's past time to shut up about her admitted "personal relationship" with a favored developer, who is now her employer. The zoning concessions, which allowed for the construction of 1,000-plus apartments on a prime piece of undeveloped land along Central Expressway, which have already been approved and can't be undone. Maczka has endured a humiliating public drubbing. Common decency would seem to dictate that citizens allow Maczka a quiet retreat back into civilian life.
And yet every week seems to churn up new fodder for suspicion and outrage. Case in point: this just-released, $47 million economic development agreement between Richardson and the developer, JP Realty, posted by citizen-journalist/mechanic/raconteur David Chenoweth.
The existence of the agreement has been known for some time. The City Council voted unanimously last September to authorize City Manager Dan Johnson to negotiate a deal. But the city has been keeping details of those negotiations close to its vest. Residents clamoring for copies of the agreement in the lead-up up to the April 28 City Council meeting at which Maczka was cleared of ethics violations were denied on the grounds that the agreement hadn't been finished. According to the signatures on the document, that's true: JP Realty principal Mark Jordan signed the agreement on April 29, the day after the council meeting. Johnson's signature came a week later, on May 7. Which suggests either that there were a few niggling details that just couldn't be ironed out at the meeting or that Jordan and Johnson weren't keen on pouring gas on an already combustible meeting.
It should be said that the city isn't simply cutting Jordan a $47 million check. Per the terms of the agreement, the incentives are tied to infrastructure improvements -- drainage, sidewalks, trails and the like -- and will be paid out in annual grants over the next quarter century. Exactly how much is paid out each year depends on how much money JP Realty Partners spends on infrastructure and how much the property's assessed value has increased. Still, it's a hefty price tag for a piece of property that's consistently touted as the most desirable piece of undeveloped land left in Richardson, which presumably could have been profitably developed without such a handout.
Richardson spokesman Greg Sowell says in an email that the incentives are aimed at "supporting the creation of a contemporary corporate campus setting that will help attract and retain quality business development and a highly skilled workforce."
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"Large developments like this often ask for some kind of ED agreement and the City has a history of working with developers to create these kinds of private/public partnerships in order to promote a higher quality development and to allow it to occur more quickly."
Unless evidence surfaces to the contrary -- and given the fit of insanity that has taken hold of Richardson politics of late, it might -- it has to be assumed that the mayor's relationship had no material influence on the terms of the agreement. Local governments give developers sweetheart deals all the time because that's how the game is played. But sweet Jesus, $47 million?
This story has been updated with comments from Richardson spokesman Greg Sowell
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.