When is it appropriate for government to sell public lands? Governments of all kinds routinely sell land, but they keep the proceeds from such sales in the public treasury, and most people are okay with this arrangement.
Except in Lucas County, where our Board of Commissioners thinks it's okay to sell public lands to a non-profit entity with the clear expectation that the non-profit will re-sell the property to a developer and make a ton money.
According to Comm. Tina Skeldon Wozniak, quoted in this article in The Blade, the non-profit agency, "deserves to have it." Comm. Pete Gerken said it "was a reward to the recreation district for taking care of the site for more than a decade."
The BCC has been leasing the Centennial Terrace to a non-profit group for years. Under the lease agreement, they're supposed to run the recreational area and not ask for any more funds from the County...but they did ask, and routinely received, funds or improvements over the years. And they've done a good job of managing the Centennial Terrace - but that's not the point. We're not supposed to reward non-profit agencies with public lands without due compensation to the public which owns them. And why does a non-profit organization deserve the property more than the taxpayers?
The value of the land is only what someone is willing to pay for it. And if there is a developer who is willing to pay $1.5 million for 1.78 of the 19 acres in the property, then that sale should be done by the commissioners with the proceeds going into the County treasury.
This was an issue last year when I was still a commissioner - and it's taken this long for them to come up with a spin to put on the sale. The way to sell this deal is to call it "local control." As Comm. Gerken says, "We know putting the property in local hands is the right thing to do." But a non-profit agency is not 'local control,' especially when everyone knows that a developer will soon have 'control' of at least a portion of that property.
In this case, the commissioners are abdicating their obligation to do what's in the best interest of the public they serve - instead choosing to do what's in the best interest of a non-profit agency. And this at a time when they're not meeting their revenue projections...
So instead of you, me and all county residents getting $1.5 million for a portion of the land at Centennial Terrace, we're getting $1. What's wrong with this picture?