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Letters to the Editor

Force and regulation stifle business

From Marty Green

Lenox

I own a total of seven buildings on Main Street in Lenox. Four of those buildings are affected by the B2 Business District rezoning that is proposed. Five of the seven buildings would not have been here to even discuss if I had not saved them. I saw a potential in those buildings that no one else saw. That potential has now been realized, and they have suddenly become everyone’s business. Two of those buildings are apartments and two are businesses, my choice with no force from the city. I would like to see downtown survive. It takes money to save buildings. The difference in a business in the building and an apartment is furniture. With a new Dollar General on the highway, there are even fewer options for these buildings. I am all for the new Dollar General. I believe in capitalism. The town is growing.

I had no intention of putting apartments in any of the store fronts downtown. I believe a furniture store and an appliance store are just a couple of examples of what could work downtown. There are currently seven store fronts available in that one block of Main Street. We have no lack of space, just a lack of businesses that will work in those spaces. The fear is that our downtown will be taken over by apartments. If they are concerned about these failed businesses and empty buildings, buy them and put something in. Just telling its current owner one less thing they can do to save the building is not an answer. Once a building sits empty for three years, it goes down fast. Creston downtown just gained a new “green space.” A big hole in the middle of a block. Not a pretty sight. That block will never be whole again. A building can’t be a charity, it has to have a function. It has to be profitable to pay the bills and maintain the structure. How much do you believe “green space” brings in financially?

My two-story building, on the corner at 100 N. Main St., was damaged badly in the 2011 tornado. The whole roof was torn off and part of the south wall. After three years and $170,000 of my own money, that building is now standing. The first tenant that I convinced to move in was The Lenox Time Table. I thought that 100 N. Main St. was a fitting address for that 100-year old newspaper. They have been there for eight years.

I was given notice that the Lenox newspaper will no longer be on Main Street over this deal. They don’t agree with my politics. Of course, they don’t own my building. Business goes where it needs to go. They are moving to the highway. They have improved their location. The business stayed in town. I will be able to rent the apartment for $285/month more than before. My point is, I had a backup plan just in case something like this should come up. I built the space as an apartment and allowed the newspaper to run out of that space. Now, as an apartment, the space will be able to cover the taxes, maintenance on the building, pay the utilities and actually be more profitable than before. That option should be left available to the other shop owners.

The zoning committee and city council has now taken a 100-year old newspaper, located at 100 N. Main St., relocated it to the highway and replaced it with lower level living on Main Street. Not exactly the result they were shooting for.

Anyone using grants or tax payer money should expect to be regulated. Government regulation of private property is a completely different matter. There is already regulation in place for those of us that invest our own money, time and labor into these projects. We have state health, building and electrical inspectors and state fire marshal.

No one, other than the Creston News Advertiser’s reporter, has made any attempt to contact me or discuss this matter as of Dec. 24. As they continue forward, this will escalate. I intend to remind them that, as the actual owner of the buildings, I still have power to affect this situation. My method, though unconventional, should be effective. Appearance has a big effect on businesses downtown. Business is coaxed, not forced. Cooperation and opportunity stimulate business. Force and regulation stifle business. This issue is not about putting apartments on Main Street. It’s about keeping government out of private business.

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