First, it was free rent for decades, with a six-month don’t-tell-the-public gift from the county, for the Woodfin energy plant. And now it’s 50 percent off assessed land value and another 50 percent off the land price for the county-owned Pack Square land, with another six months don’t-tell-the-public-until-construction-starts gift. Whoever is putting these deals together should be teaching a course in political extortion of public money 101. (To add insult to injury, the Asheville City Council just tried to pull a political power play for partisan elections that also didn’t work.)
Someone needs to turn the lights on at the Courthouse so we can see who is brokering these sweetheart [real-estate] deals. It couldn’t be to expand the county’s tax base, because any increase in tax collection from either one of these deals is given away up front in free rent or reduced land prices and reduced land assessment.
But the real hutzpah in both deals is they thought they could keep them secret at least for six months, until too much work had been done and too much money had been spent to stop the deals from going forward. It didn’t work in the Woodfin plant deal, and we will see if it works for Pack Square. Perhaps the state’s attorney should take a look at our secret government.
— Bert Bass