Friday, October 17, 2003

George Mindling Column 10-17-2003


Murdock Village


The Murdock Village project is an issue polarizing our community unlike any since last year's courthouse restoration budget.

While many voters are opposed to the ambitious, forward looking mixture of residential, civic and commercial development, it appears a majority of business owners and many of the civic leaders are solidly behind the project. The issue of economic impact on Charlotte County's future is the major component of the discussion.

There is opposition to economic growth in Charlotte County and the Murdock Village project looms as the ideological battleground With the initial groundbreaking at least three years away, the possibility of the project being corrupted by an incoming majority of new county commissioners certainly exists as three commission seats will be up for election. The project has already progressed well beyond the point of no return financially, and most certainly will be contracted and well into the initial design phase before the next county election.

The project could possibly be prevented from successful completion, or at least significantly altered. The opponents of the project must show the voters that terminating or canceling multimillion dollar contracts and facing the lawsuits that will follow, is in the best interests of Charlotte County. Everyone sympathizes with the property owners who will have to forfeit homes and businesses they have already established. It is unfortunate for the commissioners to not have won general approval of the property owners beforehand by not involving them in the success of the project. A method of making current residents and owners some type of "shareholders" in the village, through some form of credit could possibly have garnered the enthusiasm and support it needed for the overall general acceptance of the project.

Fear of a tax increase to fund the project is one tactic the project opponents are already using to attack the project. Ironically, if the project is halted now, after the county has already acquired considerable property in the area and before the investors can buy or invest in the project after the completion of the acquisition phase, that possibility certainly exists. The county would then have a large amount of property that no longer generates tax revenue.

If a new County Commission stalls the project, the recently purchased property may not be what it was worth before the project was announced The area in question is not known in real estate circles as prime property. There are many desirable growth areas in the county, but the area currently being acquired is certainly not one of them. If the project is terminated now, property values in the area will fall back drastically, undercutting speculators who have been buying property in anticipation of leveraging the county into paying above assessed prices for property.

What transpires in the next 12 months will determine how the voters see the County Commission candidates and the project itself. The commissioners have work to do, as do the candidates.

Charlotte County voters have the hardest job: They must decide what is right for our future.

George Mindling © 2003

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