To the editor:
I have always assumed that the area at the Marion County Lake inside of Lakeshore Drive was held in trust for the enjoyment of citizens of Marion County — a green area kept in an undeveloped state to balance the surrounding development and to ensure public access to the entire shoreline and all of the shelter houses and picnic areas.
Now it appears that the county commissioners are considering a proposal that would breach this boundary with an encroachment across public access going right down to the lake’s shore. This proposal calls for the county to lease up to three sites on which at least 12 cabins would be built by developers. All of this is in the name of economic development, job creation, and potentially, the return of selected past Marion County graduates to the county.
The proposal would have the Marion County Commission “sell” (lease for 99 years or really, give away) the most valuable lots in Marion County for a promise to pay — no money up front, except the county’s money to provide services to these lots at a minimum projects cost of $30,000 per lot if no rock is encountered; more if rock is found. The county will actually pay for the privilege of transferring de facto ownership of lakefront property for no consideration, except a proposal to share a small percentage — 2.1 percent — of future revenue from the venture. Development, yes. But at what cost to the public?
If the commission is determined to pursue this project, as is apparent since they overrode the planning and zoning commission recommendation, they should do it right — perhaps something similar to what Morris County did at Council Grove Lake. Lease the sites on an annual basis for true market value as building lots for high-end homes. Advantages are money up-front, higher valuations thus more property tax, and higher-income residents thus more disposable income to spend in the county. At the very least, open up this development to all possible proposals to be judged based on economic benefit to the county and not just sentiment.
I asked the commissioners to reconsider the direction they appear to be going. It is my hope that all citizens of Marion County and their children can continue to have access to all of the county lake. Marion County citizens need to ask exactly what the costs will be for the kind of progress they want.
Leroy A. Wetta