For the third time in the past six months, the Mason City, Iowa Planning & Zoning Commission has voted against the so-called Indianhead Farms project, containing a Wal-Mart superstore. This time, according to the Globe-Gazette newspaper, the vote was 5-2. But give Mayor Bill Schickel his due: he came up with some big numbers about the positive impact of Wal-Mart for the P&Z to chew over — but unfortunately the Commission didn’t believe the numbers added up. The Mayor’s presentation of Wal-Mart economic impacts was labeled “highly speculative” by John Gronings, the Vice Chair of P&Z. The Mayor projected Wal-Mart’s impact on local option taxes, property taxes, and city school taxes. Then he tossed in $7 million the city wouldn’t need to spend on a new industrial park, plus $10 million the city would save by not having to clear land downtown for a supercenter, plus $32 million because of the creation of 100 new jobs — well, you get the picture. A classic example of “Wal-Math”. In all, the Mayor’s numbers added up to a whopping $65.8 million over a 20 year period, and less than $5 million in costs (including $2 million for hiring 3 new police officers for 20 years). Commissioners were skeptical of the numbers. They proceeded to reject the project for a third time. In May (see newsflash below), the City Council failed by one vote to come up with the 5-1 “super majority” vote needed to overturn the P&Z vote agaiinst Wal-Mart. The City Council even went so far as to reapply to the P&Z on behalf of the developer, who was not allowed to reapply untiil next January. All these maneuverings having failed, the Council’s thought now is that they may vote to change its “super majority” ordinance, and simply oveturn the P&Z with a simple majority vote. Now that’s a number the Mayor hopes the Planning Commission will understand.
The Indianhead Farms developer wants to convert 310 acres of farmland into a retail mall and an industrial park. After repeated attempts to get the Planning and Zoning Commission to buy the project, now it looks as if the Mayor will just try to change the rules midstream to shove Indianhead through. For more information on the massacre at Indianhead Farms, contact [email protected]