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What is so special about Home Depot? That's the question I asked the Assembly Lands Committee last Monday and I am asking the same question here. I have no problem with any new business attempting to get established in Juneau. However, Home Depot wants to buy city-owned land, some of the best industrial land in town. I have some relationships with the development community and I know that many local businesses would be interested in bidding on this property. Yet, the process launched last week would result in Juneau negotiating with only one business for this land.
The use of city land for economic development is not wrong. A good example of targeted support, with land, is the Mount Roberts Tramway. That development, an expansion in the visitor industry infrastructure, would not have been possible without a lease of city-owned waterfront property. Does Home Depot represent an expansion in the local economy? I don't think so. Juneauites are not going to buy more two-by-fours because there is yet another place to buy them, so why should our city give special treatment to an outside company that won't cause our economy to grow?
Unless the city can explain what special benefit will occur because of Home Depot, that company should not receive special and exclusive benefits that are not available to other companies. Large, flat, nonwetland parcels with industrial zoning are very scarce in Juneau. The public should expect the best possible return for this kind of land and the local business community deserves an opportunity to compete for it.
Murray R. Walsh