Development activism has helped, not hurt, UC

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to a letter by Bob De Ruggiero that was carried in your Letters to the Editor column in the September 7th edition of the Union City Reporter. Although Mr. De Ruggiero did not refer to me by name, I somehow think that Mr. De Ruggiero had me in mind since he opposes lawsuits to stop development, and I have filed 35 such suits.

I have read Mr. De Ruggiero’s letter quite carefully but I cannot quite determine if I file an action only to “take a settlement to ‘go away’ ” or am “the well meaning citizen who simply does not like development” or am the seeker after “headlines as a well-meaning vigilante.” Mr. De Ruggiero’s letter is not quite clear on this point.

For the record, I have never settled a case. Period.

Mr. De Ruggiero makes two assertions in his letter, neither of which is correct:

1. Development is great for our taxes.

2. My legal actions denied success to the developers who have staked their fortunes on the projects which I have opposed.

As for the taxes, Mr. De Ruggiero supplies a number: $60 million in new ratables as a result of development. The Municipal tax rate in 2007 was $29.97 per thousand. At that rate, $60 million in ratables would produce $1,798,200 for the city coffers. $1,798,200 is a lot of money. On the other hand, the Municipal budget is $93 million per year. The added income from the new development is less than 2 percent of the budget. It makes no sense to turn the city upside down in return for an income stream that is less than 2 percent of our annual needs.

As for denying success to deserving developers, they should thank me. I filed my first action on April 14, 2005. Most of the projects which I have opposed over the last three years would have taken 24 to 30 months to complete. Had I not acted, the developers would have proceeded with the result that they would be completing projects in 2008, in the coldest real estate market since the 1930’s. Ironically, the biggest beneficiaries of my legal actions were the developers, who were prevented from making truly catastrophic investments.

An equal beneficiary may have been the landscape of Union City. It has not been easy to complete a development project in the last three years. There was a sharp escalation in costs at the beginning and a credit crunch at the end. Many of the developers which I opposed were thinly capitalized and did not have the stamina to withstand that kind of buffeting. We have several stranded uncompleted projects in Union City. Without my intervention, I suspect that there would have been others.

Perhaps none of this will persuade Mr. De Ruggiero that I am anything other than a Luddite of the worst sort. But, he should realize that my primary motive is concern for the city that is my home.

Larry Price


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