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EDITORIAL: No winners in Vista stalemate

Just when we thought things might be shifting into high gear at the Vista Technology Campus, it seems more likely the brakes are going to come on.

You’ll read this week that a deal with the park’s presumed first technology tenant is hardly a sure thing – depending on whom you’re talking to – and that the developer at the park has some choice words for the town agency he’s been working with for several years.

It all comes down to disclosure. Columbia Development President Joe Nicolla tells us because he has to get into details about potential tenants with the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency to get tax breaks approved, competitors swoop in on his deals before they can gain traction.

Covering the development of Vista, or any project like it, is not an easy task. Developers understandably hold their cards close to their chests in the hope of keeping their best-laid plans confidential until the ink is dry on a contract.

It’s easy to see why Nicolla is upset about having the lid blown off his deals. As we’ve pointed out in the past, there are many places like Vista competing for the same companies. But with all due respect to Nicolla, that’s something he should have thought of before he lobbied fiercely for the involvement of public money and tax breaks at Vista.

No one is forcing Columbia to apply for these rather lucrative property tax abatements. If Columbia is so concerned about how they harm confidentiality, then the alternative is to lobby tenants “straight up” and only deal with the Planning Board.

As much as we sympathize with how difficult it must be to conduct a negotiation when its details are appearing in the pages of the newspaper, and as much as it’s said the town is tough for developers to work with, the public that’s picking up the slack from these tax breaks has a certain right to know what’s going on.

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