Arrogance

As far as I’m concerned, Pinnacle has just about used up any residual goodwill it had in Atlantic City. Not content with trashing 2,000 jobs and blowing up a major casino on the 50/50 chance that they’ll actually build something, the company is now trying to use eminent domain to seize private businesses located across Pacific Avenue, just in case they decide they want to expand their non-project. From the AC Press:

Pinnacle Atlantic City CEO Kim Townsend attended the meeting Wednesday and acknowledged that councils delayed decision on the surrounding properties would slow down their project.

Opponents of the eminent domain effort point to Pinnacle’s announcement in February that the poor credit markets could break their project plans.

The companys chairman, Dan Lee, reaffirmed the plans to build when he addressed New Jersey gaming regulators late last month, despite the poor market.

Officials with the developer have stressed their projects uncertain future has not stopped their efforts to continue with the preconstruction process, including the eminent domain effort.

But the looming possibility that development could fail has some officials concerned about demolishing properties and, in the end, building nothing to replace them.

"We don’t want to see a big hole there," Councilman George Tibbitt said.

Asked to respond to Tibbitt’s comments, Townsend told a reporter, "There already is a hole there, honey," referring to the vacant lot Pinnacle created when the Sands Casino nearly a year ago.

"Our dirt lot looks better than the adult bookstore around us," she said.

Atlantic City Council delays action on eminent domain for Pinnacle site

This is ridiculous. If Pinnacle can’t pay these property owners what they think their businesses are worth, then they don’t get to buy it. End of story. In a delightfully ironic twist, jewelry store owner Quang Ha, whose store Pinnacle wants, fled communist oppression in Vietnam and spent time in a refugee camp before living the American dream in Atlantic City.

Townshend’s response to Tibbit’s comment that “we don’t want to see a hole there” is possibly the most inexcusably arrogant pronouncement I’ve heard from a major executive…ever. That’s saying a lot–I used to work for Donald Trump.

“There already is a hole there, honey…” right, because your company closed and imploded a worn but workable casino and then, through your own ineptitude, you failed to get the money to build there? There’s more than one hole there, honey–trust me. And your dirt lot looks….like a dirt lot. When I get the chance, I’ll post some pictures and the readers can judge for themselves.

BTW, nice of the reporter/editor to mangle the sentence after Townshend’s idiotic retort–when the Sands what nearly a year ago?

If Mr. Ha loses his business, I say the state should immediately invoke eminent domain to seize “Pinnacle Atlantic City” at below-market value. After all, they aren’t building anything, and it’d be hard to argue that their “property” is anything but an eyesore. And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, isn’t it?

3 thoughts on “Arrogance”

  1. Wow dave tell us how you really feel:). Anyway, I don’t like the eminent domain process either. But the reality is that there are lots of small businesses in AC that prevent that city from being the great gambling location it should be(Along with the totally corrupt political environment). I am assuming that Pinnacle has offered a fair market value for this guys business and he doesn’t want to sell. Many of these small businesses just don’t want to sell and close or move their businesses. If they block progress and then I agree with the process which usually requires them to be paid fair market value for their locations. Maybe there is a better way, but in NJ, I doubt it.

  2. What’s holding Atlantic City back isn’t the small businesses–I have a lot of respect for people who are willing to invest their money and sweat in such a challenging location. It’s the boneheads who want to steamroller everything in their path, IF they decide to build.

    The way I see it, this guy is paying his taxes and providing some kind of economic life for the city. More importantly, it’s his store. The wonderful thing about America is that if he doesn’t want to sell it, he doesn’t have to.

    If I wanted his land badly enough I’d either pay his price or offer him a contract for a favorable lease on a retail space in the casino, once it opens. I’d offer to pay his way around the world so he travel a bit while they’re building the casino. In the end, it would be a lot cheaper than the attorneys’ fees for the legal process. Those guys don’t work for free.

    The problem is that AC isn’t Las Vegas–you can’t just build on empty desert land. The casinos should try to incorporate the good aspects of the city around them, or at least make an effort to work with locals. I really like what Harrah’s has done with their “Taste of the Shore” food court–it’s nice to know that I can send out-of-towners there to get a Sacko’s cheesesteak, and it makes me feel like the casino is showing some local personality.

    What struck me was the hypocrisy–forcing a guy to sell his business, which is paying taxes and presumably employing people, for a casino project that the company CEO now says is a 50/50 proposition. It’s not even an essential part of the project, from what I see.

    It’s funny that the Pinnacle folks are accusing him of holding out for above market value–in essence, speculating on his own land. In the end, there’s a 50% chance that Pinnacle won’t develop their land at all, and will sell it to another developer at a profit–more speculation. I think that the government’s role should be to enforce contracts and protect property rights, not to benefit particular property owners, whether they be rich or poor.

  3. The eminent domain move was a joke. It came in under the radar and was found out by one of the property owners, a lawyer. Once outed, the property owners started hiring lawyers.

    Pinnacle wasn’t moving on a few properties. They were after two square blocks. One went from Atlantic Ave. to Pacific Ave., from Indiana to MLK Blvd. (where Quang Ha’s gold shop is) and Pacific Ave. to the Boardwalk between MLK Blvd. and Kentucky Ave. It traced out a huge L shaped parcel.

    It got almost no local coverage until things started heating up in June ’08. Then the local paper played up the property owners as some kind of malcontents standing in the way of progress. The last coverage was around September when Mr. Ha’s business was still being threatened. The city has since backed off, not willing to go to court over the issue. But that was never reported in the local paper.

    What did make the paper was a story about the Atlantic City News Agency on Pacific Ave. in late September. The story first ran on Sunday, front page, below the fold. In it, Mr. Lee and Ms. Townsend had some very unkind words for Mr. Stuart Weiss, the store’s owner. The story ran later that week, front page of the Region section. It ran again before week’s end, just not front page. I guess the PressofAtlanticCity was short on news that week.

    And what’s most interesting is the stories have disappeared from the paper’s site and the web. For real.

    Pinnacle has more than enough land to build a huge casino/hotel, if that is their intention. There was no reason to stir up the eminent domain hornet’s nest as they did.

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