In 2003, an article in The New York Times recounted how Asheville developer Stewart Coleman and his brothers hired an accounting firm [that] promised them “bulletproof” tax shelters. When the IRS rejected the scheme, the Colemans sued the accounting firm.
I see similarities in our current situation: The county [commission] gave Coleman a sweetheart deal, basically promising the developer a bulletproof way to build luxury condos that would crowd the landmark City Building and redesigned park.
Now that Coleman’s Parkside condo project is in jeopardy, Coleman has announced he will chop down a century-old magnolia tree unless the city and county pay him—millions more than he originally invested—to abandon the project. Without resorting to a lawsuit, Coleman’s threat is a strategy to leverage a big payback for what Coleman perceives as damages owed him for his failed real-estate venture. Sadly, those extra millions would come directly from us, the taxpayers.
When the rest of us risk money in real-estate ventures, we lose if the project fails. Why should Stewart Coleman be any different? He should not receive a public bailout simply because his project didn’t succeed.
Our leaders should either invoke eminent domain or enforce local development ordinances (for a change), and stop the Parkside project. History suggests Coleman will likely sue, which may eventually cost as much as the buyout Coleman demands, but at least our leaders won’t be giving up our hard-earned money without a fight. Handing millions of taxpayer dollars to Coleman to make his project go away sends a message to other developers that they can do the same.
— David Lynch