An Open Letter on Bank Drive-Throughs

The bank drive through has passed HPC review. The Plan Commission should stop it.

An open letter to the Plan Commission regarding the Pure Oil Building,

On Tuesday last (15 May 2012), Geneva’s Historic Preservation Commission (of which I am a member) approved the revised plans 502-514 W. State Street and 12 S. 5th Street. The petitioner, Mr. Joe Stanton, changed the plans for his proposed bank drive-through facility such that it kept the Pure Oil building (502 W. State) intact. Previous plans included the demolition of that historic structure and you are probably aware of the public outcry that ensued. The plan to incorporate a drive-through will require an appearance before your commission, which is why I write to you.

Before I continue, it needs to be clear that I am speaking here as an individual and not as an official representative of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and do not speak for my colleagues on that commission. While I, along with the rest of the HPC, voted to approve the plans, it should not be considered endorsement of the property’s use as a drive-through banking facility. My affirmative vote was only based on the fairly clear and objective standards for Historic Preservation outlined by the Secretary of the Interior. In a nutshell, the street-side facades are remaining fundamentally intact and generally meet those standards by which the HPC is generally guided. Judgment on business use is not the purview of the HPC.

My request to the Plan Commission is to consider whether a drive-through facility is in the best long-term interest for our city. Our retail corridors of Third Street and State Street are central to Geneva’s enviable vitality in the face of economic and competitive pressures. Key to that vitality is the pedestrian friendly nature of those retail corridors. I would strongly suggest to your commission that committing that amount of contiguous street-frontage to a business use that holds zero pedestrian appeal effectively isolates those properties west of the proposed banking drive-through facility. It should be obvious to even the casual observer that continued vitality for downtown is dependent on judicious and cautious and incremental building off of our current vital retail center. 

While a drive-through may, in some theoretical sense, fill a storefront, it holds no appeal to the pedestrian shoppers that Geneva relies on (nor does it generate sales tax revenue). Moreover, the storefronts in the zero-setback new construction to the west would be invisible to pedestrians standing at Fourth and State looking for a reason to cross the street. If they don’t see anything, they don’t cross the street. If they don’t cross the street, the west end suffers.

It is my opinion that approving the drive-through for 502 W. State would be a long-term bad decision for downtown vitality and economic development. Please deny the petition for the special use of a banking drive-through.

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Justin Eggar May 19, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Mike, Thanks for your response. I would venture to say these issues aren't inherently complex - we make it that way. (for a variety of reasons, the most often used excuse is to be fair ie. distribution of wealth). We possibly need a simple ideology for a simple problem. Not a broken convoluted hodge-podge of systems because we've made things way more complex than they need to be. Granted, that bureaucracy exists... well, because of bureaucrats. I'm not horribly concerned with putting more money in my pockets - my concern is more along the lines of what will result in the most progress over the next thousand years. Capitalism and free markets are likely the strongest tool to accomplish that.
Mike Bruno May 19, 2012 at 04:26 PM
And down the rabbit hole we go.... Your example is NOT simple nor does a simple ideology address it...but it does save a lot of pesky, time-consuming contemplation. Complete deregulation, by its nature, will create booms and busts. Those booms (peaks) and busts (valleys) are the Darwinian way of weeding out the weak businesses (I chose Darwin because I know you are huge fan! :-) ) That's a good thing. The problem is that, when those valleys are so deep, there is just such economic devastation and human suffering that nobody is happy. The *complexity*...and where the *debate* lay... is in how do we fill in the valleys to strike the best *compromise* of weeding the weak businesses while mitigating human suffering.
Justin Eggar May 20, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Mike - I'm a little confused, I didn't suggest complete deregulation. I did suggest that we make things more complex than they have to be. As one of the most obvious examples, does the tax code really have to be as complex as it is? We could apply that same mindset to simplify much of what is occurring ( granted, for systems to integrate it does occasionally increase complexity). Just to be clear - complete deregulation is not an ideological example I was trying to make. I would say that long term progress (in a few key areas in particular) is far more important than decreasing potential valleys of human suffering. The importance of those issues trump the smaller thing until they've been resolved. Back to my point up a few posts though, I am most concerned with whatever system is most efficient in creating long term sustainable progress. Perhaps our current system is the best that there is to accomplish that. If so the great. That's funny you mentioned Darwin - I was going to make a joke about that in my response to you earlier but held off!
Mike Bruno May 20, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Sorry if I misconstrued your comments Justin. I probably distilled several separate comments and, in the context of other commenters, and was probably responding to a hybrid comment that didn't exist. ...though I certainly stand my by statement that too many people seem to prefer simple ideologies over complex thought...particularly when it comes to government regulation of capital markets.
Noel G. Rooks May 23, 2012 at 04:56 PM
At the risk of being sucked into the vortex - presenting Glass Steagall: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/19/153095800/could-glass-steagall-have-stopped-jpmorgan-loss


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