Detroit News Rebuttal
DETROIT NEWS REBUTTAL
Please read the City's letter to the editor in response to the DETROIT NEWS article "Overdevelopment chokes New Buffalo, Michigan" by Francis X. Donnelly.
SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
In the January 30, 2010 edition of the Detroit News there was an article entitled "Overdevelopment chokes New Buffalo, Michigan" by Francis X. Donnelly which included many false and misleading statements. This letter is meant to set the record straight.
The beginning of the article establishes that the "New Buffalo" the writer is referring to has a population of 2,200. This is the 2000 Census count for the City of New Buffalo. New Buffalo Township, a distinct jurisdiction, has a 2000 Census count of 2,468. The whole New Buffalo community included 4,668 people in the 2000 Census.
The article falsely states, "[m]ore than 500 condos, houses and townhomes have been built since 2005, according to property tax records." However, assessment roll, building permit, and occupancy permit records show that from 2005 through 2009 there have been 197 condos, houses and townhomes built in the City of New Buffalo.
"Homes that couldn't fit on the crowded land sit upon pilings on the water" is another false statement. New Buffalo (City and Township) has no homes, or residential units of any kind, built upon pilings on the water.
The ReMax Harbor Country figures for the average price of homes in the region is misleading. The writer of the article does not identify what area the region includes. According to the article, "[t]he average price of homes in the region jumped from $189,996 in 1999 to $481,688 in 2007 before falling to $354,308 last year [2009.]" However, the average price of homes in the City of New Buffalo was $153,500 in 1999, $315,000 in 2007, and $258,000 in 2009.
The article incorrectly reports, "[w]ith taxes unpaid for three years, the property [Village Square] is headed toward foreclosure, said city officials." The 2007, 2008, and 2009 summer taxes for all seven property parcels associated with Village Square have been paid. No City of New Buffalo official was contacted as this statement asserts. Further, the article implies that "[d]eveloper Jimmy Gierczyk of Homewood, Ill." is still
financially responsible for Village Square. This is not true. The properties have had a new owner for the past two years.
The reporting of the quote below grossly misinforms the reader:
"Or should the city be ashamed for not having bonds when it gave building permits [for Village Square]?"... referring to money a developer pays a municipality to guarantee a project's completion. In reality, it is not possible for the City of New Buffalo, or any other municipality in Michigan, to get a performance bond to guarantee completion of a private development. If a municipality were hiring a contractor for a public improvement, then that municipality can have a performance bond. It is and has been the policy of the City of New Buffalo to require a performance bond for public improvements.
The article reports:
It's also attracting crime. Calls for police, fire and ambulances in southwestern Berrien jumped 55 percent after the casino opened, from 6,716 incidents in 2005 to 10,393 in 2008, the last year figures are available, according to the county.
This statement is greatly misleading. The calls for police, fire and ambulances are calls for service, not necessarily crime. In fact, the City police, fire, and ambulance calls have risen 22% between 2005 and 2008, not 55%. An increase in calls for service is obvious for any increase in transient population, whether on their way to a school, grocery store, or casino. There may be an increase in crime associated with any casino over time, but the current data for New Buffalo does not support this conclusion.
The writer's facts are also in error. The article states, "Amtrak brought Chicago even closer to New Buffalo in October by doubling the number of nonstop routes between the cities to four." Actually, prior to October 2009, Amtrak did travel from Chicago stopping in New Buffalo twice per day, however, these were not nonstop trips. Amtrak added two daily non-stop trips between Chicago and New Buffalo in October 2009.
The article also states that, "[t]he 71-mile route can be traversed in 50 minutes." This is not true. According to the Amtrak train schedule, Amtrak passengers currently ride for 73 minutes to traverse the non-stop 62-mile route from Chicago to New Buffalo.
The article also claims, "[b]each entrance fees... have risen." In fact, the City Beach's parking fees have not risen in the past three years, and they are not rising in 2010 either. Actually two years ago the City instituted free parking after 8:00 PM, and the last year the City expanded the City residents and property owners beach pass program to allow New Buffalo Township residents to purchase them.
The article has a concluding quote from Mr. Hosinski, "[b]ut they didn't have a plan." This is a very misleading statement to end the article on without the writer establishing whether this statement is true or not. In fact, the City of New Buffalo does have a Master Plan for planning and zoning in the City. The current one was completed in 2003 and a new one is being started.
New Buffalo is a safe, viable community that has been impacted like many others across the nation, but all Mr. Donnelly had to do was check out the facts.
Please let this letter set the record straight.
William J. Geisler
Mayor, City of New Buffalo
Charles O. Dobbins
City Manager, City of New Buffalo