Letter to the Editor: LumberYard Benefits Come at Price

Despite defense of LumberYard mounted by residents, the project is too costly for Collingswood taxpayers, resident Joseph Dinella writes in a letter to the editor.

To the Editor: 

As I read about that our predominately empty-nester new neighbors at the LumberYard enjoy, some questions arise. The bargains—thanks to the down market and municipal largesse—they secured in the purchase price of their homes plus the incredible incentive of a 50 percent tax abatement that they currently enjoy courtesy of the Collingswood taxpayers, have a cost.

As I have told one of the families mentioned—whom I have known for some time—it is the financials of the LumberYard that are its downfall. All the other taxpayers in town pay more in municipal taxes to service the $15.05 million debt ($6 million more is on the way) to subsidize the construction of market-rate homes. Should the many subsidize the few?

Of the $450,000 in taxes paid by properties at the project this year, not one dollar goes to the schools. Is it fair that other taxpayers pay more in school taxes to make up that shortfall?

These are reasonable questions to ask of a project that by any metric is wildly over-budget and four years behind schedule. If this is considered stone throwing from the sidelines, could someone please explain how then—with a municipal government that lacks the fabled checks and balances that are the hallmark of our national republic and but one election every four year—is local government held transparent and accountable for its actions by its citizens?

Continuing to sing "Kumbaya" obfuscates the seriousness of our elected government's poor decisions.

Joseph Dinella


Want to share your opinion on Collingswood issues? Send a letter to the editor to Associate Regional Editor Lauren Burgoon, lauren.burgoon@patch.com. 

Bob G-man February 17, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Part 3 As someone who works in economic development and worked many years in commercial real estate consulting and appraisal, I looked at continued construction in the face of a cratered market with incredulity and amazement. One simply does not do that, one banks the land or finds an interim use and waits for the markets to stabilize. I worked on many such projects in the 1980’s. Then I felt for my wallet, and it was being rifled. I think the Lumberyard was, in fact, a decent idea. The numerous errors in the Lumberyard’s execution are the results of bad decisions, not the economic climate. The point of an apology raised by another writer is a valid one. It is not for the sake of an apology itself. It would mean that Maley recognizes his mistakes instead of blaming “the market”, and the constructive point of recognizing mistakes is to figure a better way out. Not once have I heard or read the words “workout” from the Mayor, which would mean bringing in a real expert to figure this out with the least damage to the taxpayers. Think of it this way with a football analogy – the old quarterback had some great games, and he helped build a team. But he has started throwing balls in the dirt, missing receivers, and fumbling. Let us give respect for his past successes. But it’s time for a new quarterback.
Porterincollingswood February 17, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Does that make Joe our Terrell Owens? But seriously, I think what I need is a timeline of what happened when. Does one exist? I, probably like many, just woke up one day to find out I owned part of the Lumberyard. That kinda shouldn't happen. Or at least throw me free parking there, right?
Will McGowan February 18, 2012 at 12:06 AM
It seems as Mr. Dinella may have a personal beef with the mayor and hoping the Lumberyard goes under does no one any good. However, his points are right on. I've been to meetings and not hear our mayor even take a slight responsibility on the Lumberyard...it's always the downturn, or Moody's, etc.... I've also seen the "dismissal" tactic when you bring up a point contrary to the mayor's and you are "eye rolled" into "next!" as if your opinion lacked any value. In other countries this is a dictatorship. I, too would like to see POSITIVE ideas on the Lumberyard and stop with the "told ya!" talk. Its here and we own it...now how do we get out of it? One thing is to consider revamping this town into a spot where young folks may want to live...slow down on restaurants, add a liquor liscense or two?? Think outside the box!
Will McGowan February 18, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I think Bob-G is pretty on the money. I'm kind of tired of hearing it was the fault of the economic times and Moody's. They didn't even stage a finished unit until 2009! All you got was Lego models in the private office that didn't market them. I also disagree that if it "had the market not crashed, this project would have been a resounding success ...". Placing units on the train tracks was not a good idea, period. Philly has had tons of development throught the downturn in NoLibs, Bella Vista, Grad Hospital, etc and it was minimally affected by the "downturn" because smart alternatives to building and pricing rolled with the times; the Lumberyard did not. When Main Street Realty took over it was already too far gone. I do favor "following the money" to see who got rich out of this from inception and who skated the blame game. Everything from the purchase of the land, the contract with Costanza and the marketing should be very transparant for the townsfolk to see "what they bought".
Anne Carroll April 19, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Dear Joe: While I do agree with many of your criticisms re: the LumberYard fiasco, from my perspective, our biggest current and pending problem is PARKVIEW, THE HEIGHTS, or whatever the heck it's called now. That piece of real estate is going to make or break our wonderful town while the LumberYard could actually turn into a winner. How did the PARKVIEW / HEIGHTS fiasco happen in the first place, and why does it continue to be a serious problem (crime-wise and financially) for all residents of Collingswood? I wish someone would do an investigation into The Heights. [Not me; I'm too old; not enough pep.] By the way, are you also known to our readers as "Future Old Angry Italian Man?" P.S. Sorry, I'm a little behind in my reading of The Patch or would have responded sooner.


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