The economics of it for businesses

To the Editor:

I don’t enjoy being stirred into the same pot as some landlords that a few of the Letters to the Editor have portrayed in the last few weeks.

The rental prices for my commercial tenants have stayed much the same for the last 10 years. A few landlords have complained to me that my rents are too low. When I refinanced my building five years ago, to do major renovations to improve the building, the commercial appraiser said that he could not put the highest and best value on the property because my rents were too low. I told him, well, at least I will still have my tenants. Today, I have all but one of my tenants, and that tenant moved back to her own space in Edgartown, because she lost her own tenant.

This year, after nine years with the same yearly rent, I was finally scheduled to go up on the price of one of my spaces. My tenants approached me and said they could not pay the amount that we had agreed upon. So, not wanting to lose my tenants in a lousy economy, I substantially reduced the future rent just about back to where we had been.

Another letter writer felt that if beer and wine passed in Tisbury, many retail spaces would be transformed into restaurants. I went through the transformation process in 1990. That writer really needs to learn the length of the process and the number of hoops that you have to jump through. One of the most expensive businesses to start — labor intensive and product extremely perishable — is a restaurant. There are an endless number of boards that you have to go before, over and over and over again. What will be the cost to convert a vacant retail space into a 30-plus-seat restaurant? What are the wastewater issues of that property? Is there enough wastewater capacity even allotted to that property? These are just a few of the several hundred questions and steps that a tenant and a landlord have to figure out before attempting such a transformation. If the writers had known this, they probably would not have made such unfounded statements.

One of the major costs that we now have in the Tisbury downtown and harbor business districts is the town’s sewer system. As of August 1, 2009, the payments for the betterments started. What a time to start being responsible for additional huge payments. I was a member of the wastewater committee in our town. The central sewer system, while keeping our harbor extremely clean, has now put an enormous debt on all commercial landlords. The system only has 120 users. The price of the sewer system was over $8 million. Four million was put on the tax rolls. The other $4 million was put directly on the 120 users, along with their share of the $4 million that was put on the tax rolls for their properties. In addition to the betterments, there are the user fees, which are much higher because again, there are only 120 users.

I hope the voters of Tisbury understand that the property owners and business owners are saddened when we see empty store spaces in our town. Those empty spaces affect the businesses that remain open. If beer and wine passes, you can be sure that the landlords and restaurant owners are not going to be lighting up fine cigars with thousand dollar bills that some of you think we are going to make. We will have another tool in a very weak economy to help us compete with other Island restaurants. We will be extremely grateful for your vote of support.

Despite everything that has gone wrong in our economy, I look forward to the future, and I hope that the Tisbury voters will support their business community and pass beer and wine at the ballot on Tuesday, April 27, at the Tisbury Legion Hall.

Peter M. Cronig

Vineyard Haven