Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Westgate's weary woes offering up new lessons

What we used to think of as the Westgate Controversy has morphed lately into the Westgate Mess.

You know, for a fiftysomething-year-old strip mall, that place sure has a remarkable ability to generate fresh conflict.

And what lessons can we take away from all this, girls and boys?

Glad you asked!

Lesson No. 1: Don't Knock Diplomacy Until You Try It!

As much as someone in my business prefers that all conflict take place in the public arena, there's something to be said for conducting economic development negotiations away from the glare of publicity.

Whether or not you agree with Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's stance on Westgate, there's an argument to be made that he might have served his cause better by keeping the familiar Finkbeiner fist-shaking to himself.

Lesson No. 2: Oh, The Best Laid Plans

There's a good reason why everyone stopped mentioning the so-called "Walk Westgate" plan - there isn't one. That's right.

The $26,000 we spent a few years ago for a Michigan planning consultant's recommendations for turning the Westgate area into a pedestrian-friendly oasis was never, um, finished.

"We have a draft of that plan," plan commission Director Steve Herwat told me when I called to request a copy, "but that plan was never finalized. There is no adopted Walk Westgate plan."

Anyone who's griping about "design standards" is really griping about the city's zoning code.

Lesson No. 3: Carty Has Really Changed!

Remember Hizzoner's impassioned defense of the Secor Road Home Depot construction?

This would be the big-box project that gave rise to Carty's current allies, Westgate Neighbors, a group who decried the Home Depot "asphaltization."

And here's Hizzoner, years later, himself decrying what he says is the overabundance of asphalt called for by the original Costco-Westgate plan.

He evolved!

Lesson No. 4: Carty Hasn't Changed At All!

Somewhere, in some office cubicle in metro Toledo, someone's collecting their winnings from the Carty Office Pool.

This would be the lucky person who came closest to picking the date upon which Hizzoner caused some kind of public brouhaha - kind of like lucking out on Final Four picks.

Here we are, not even one month into his tenure as mayor, and already the members of a public body - namely, the folks on the plan commission - are so rankled by remarks the mayor made during a call-in radio show that they're drafting a letter of concern.

Or something like that.

Actually, having listened to the mayor's comments, I'm thinking maybe the plan commission might be overreacting - but that's almost beside the point, isn't it?

The point might be this: Not so long ago, community discussion was limited to the merits or faults of the Westgate redevelopment plan.

But have you noticed how more people now are talking less about the issue, and more about the mayor's role in all this?

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