Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Earthpark Questions

Nicholas Johnson is full of obvious and important questions concerning the proposed Rainforest and the impact it might have on residents of Riverside, IA (pop. 961):
This representation by Oman can most charitabily be characterized as "misleading."

(a) He, and the casino, have represented -- without involving the City -- that a hotel/motel tax will be enacted, the money from which will go to the rain forest.

(b) They've also suggested that the casino's Foundation, which is supposed to provide a share of casino profits to local projects, such as schools, libraries or swimming pools, will, instead, divert those moneys to the rain forest.

(c) There will, presumably, be additional infrastructure costs required by the rain forest (such as roads, water and sewer lines) borne by the City.

(d) Speaking of water, has anyone in Riverside explored the potential impact on Riverside's water table, or other sources of water, required by a rain forest (that must be kept humid) and aquarium (that uses 600,000 to 1 million gallons of water)?
And that's not all. There's more. Read the whole thing. Especially the part that speculates about what happens to the rainforest and Riverside if the project fails to meet projections and cannot sustain itself over the long haul.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Town Of Riverside Are A Bunch Of Suckers

From the Washington Evening Journal:
Proponents of the $155 million Earthpark Thursday painted a rainbow of opportunity, complete with a proverbial pot of gold, in a move to get city support for the rain forest/science learning center.

After more than two hours of visual presentation, discussion and public comment, the mayor and council asked Earthpark to put it in writing.

"We will get a packet of questions together," said Mayor Bill Poch, "and we would like you to write down the answers. We want hard copy." He also asked if the answers could be done within a week after receiving the questions.

Earthpark CEO David Oman said, "It will not be a problem..."

...A key issue is Earthpark's seeking a $25 million community contribution, as well as needing a governmental entity-a city or county-to apply for a $20 million Vision Iowa grant.

"If Riverside is not supportive, it probably will be going to Pella," said Dan Kehl, CEO of the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort that is offering a $12 million to the project. In addition, Kehl has suggested that the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, the non-profit group that will have $3.2 million to distribute to non-profit and charitable groups in the county, give $8 million at the rate of $800,000 for ten years.

However, the Foundation board at its July 19 meeting, said the Earthpark would have to apply "like everyone else," and objected to Chairman Tim Putney's suggestion that special committee be set up just to deal with Earthpark.

Thursday, the Earthpark proponents outlined what they termed a "creative package," that could bring 1.2 million visitors to the area and generate an estimated $130 million economic impact.

Part of that would be additional sales tax, including a hotel/motel tax, revenue that could generate $6.8 million referred to by John Norwood of Earthpark as "incremental revenue Riverside city would receive about $1.6 million of that.

Earthpark proposed a "sharing arrangement" involving a three-way contract with the Earthpark, the city and the Environmental Development Group. The latter includes the Kehls and the casino and holds the option for the site occupied by River Products, a quarry operation, on Highway 22 directly south of the casino.

Although Norwood spoke of the generation and use of "future dollars," he also said, replying to a question from council member Todd Yahnke about the sharing agreement, "It is hard to predict the future."

Council members, though, made it clear Riverside did not have money to put into the community match, which is needed for the $50 million in federal funds, said Oman.
Look at how the con-artists representing EarthPork at coming into a town like Riverside, demanding a sales tax increase, and basically acting like they're entitled to all of the Washington County Riverboat Foundation's money.

There's not even a phony pretense of raising private money anymore. All you get out of David Oman and this John Norwood character are demands for casino money, foundation money, sales tax increases in a town of less than 1000 people, and plans to go into debt.

And what about the absolutely phony prediction of 1,200,000 people coming to Riverside? That's nearly 3300 paying customers per day, every day of the year. Even Mondays. Even Christmas. Even days when there's a foot of snow on the ground and the high temp is zero. Where are they going to come from?

Riverside residents raise questions on Earthpark

From the Cedar Rapids Gazette by Gregg Hennigan:
Though Riverside is one of two finalists trying to land the proposed $155 million Earthpark indoor rain forest, people here still have many questions about the project.

Those concerns were aired last night during a City Council meeting attended by about 35 residents that included a presentation by Earthpark officials. The meeting, which began with a 65-minute presentation by Earthpark officials, was not finished as of press time.

``There's a lot of ifs and buts there we need to watch out for,'' Riverside resident Jim Rose said.

City council members focused their questions on the financial responsibility of the city. Earthpark is requiring $25 million in local funds for the project.

``If Earthpark would happen to fail, who does that come back on? The city?'' asked council member Mariellen Bower.

Riverside and Pella are finalists for the project, formerly The Environmental Project, which would include a four-acre indoor artificial rain forest that would include a 575,000 gallon aquarium, exterior prairie and wetland exhibits and galleries about environmental science issues.

Earthpark officials have already had a falling out with one community. For five years Coralville was the presumed site for the project until talks broke down late last year after failing to reach a land deal.

Final site selection is expected to be made next month. Earthpark Executive Director David Oman said he has been to the Riverside site -- directly south of the soon-to-open Riverside Casino & Golf Resort on Highway 22 -- several times and is impressed.

Earthpark officials said the city carried little risk because city money would not be used. Riverside Casino CEO Dan Kehl said the casino and his family would contribute $12 million toward the $25 million local match. He also suggested the Washington County Riverboat Foundation would consider donating $8 million over 10 years. The rest of the money could come from taxes from future development, he said.

But earlier on Thursday, Patty Koller, the casino foundation's vice chair, said the organization has not discussed giving any money to the rain forest. It is estimated that the foundation will receive $3.2 million per year from the casino, and board members have already said 25 percent would go to cities in Washington County. $800,000 would represent another 25 percent.

But Koller, a teacher in Washington, said she was a fan of the rain forest and thought it would meet the foundation's goals of promoting education and economic development.