Listen with open mind at forum

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We appreciate the Denton Neighborhood Association’s efforts to organize a public forum tonight so residents can learn more about the city’s proposed convention center and the public-private partnership that will pay for it.

The association, perhaps best known for its annual city candidate forum each spring, planned the forum after the city held its first public hearing on the matter in June.

Organizers told us they have invited city staff members to attend and present information about the project, and we encourage residents to listen to any information that may be presented with an open mind.

We also encourage members of the council to attend tonight’s forum and lend a receptive ear to any public input that may be offered.

Plans for this project have been in the works for years and that’s understandable considering the scope and complexity of the proposal.

The city is in the final days of a feasibility period with the developer and his investors. Both the city and O’Reilly Hospitality Management Partners are looking at construction bids to see whether they can afford the city’s 100,000-square-foot convention center and O’Reilly’s 300-room hotel. The project would be built on University of North Texas land next to Apogee Stadium.

June’s public hearing was to create a tax-increment reinvestment zone to help finance the project.

With the zone, the city has asked Denton County to contribute about $2.3 million, and the Denton school district about $4 million, to help pay for the convention center’s construction and financing.

Tonight’s forum will begin at 7, and it will be held in the Commissioners Courtroom of the Courthouse on the Square.

Organizers will have residents fill out cards to speak. Each resident will get five minutes at the podium and will be able to voice his or her concerns and ask questions, according to organizers.

We hope that tonight’s session will be instructive and constructive — this project could affect not only Denton residents and taxpayers but residents of other areas, as well.

Plus, once undertaken, the project will have long-lasting implications.

Organizers told us they hope to provide an opportunity for an actual give-and-take of worthwhile information, and we think that’s a healthy idea.

We’ve always found it helpful to try and develop a firm understanding of all sides of every issue, especially one as complex as this one.

In our view, both supporters and opponents of the convention center plan could benefit from such an exchange.

It always pays to listen.


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