“LakePoint is going to be here for a while,” said co-CEO Neal Freeman in his opening remarks. “I have been developing public shopping centers for 32 years, and if you asked them if this developer listened to our concerns, adjusted things accordingly, acted responsibly and did what he said he was going to do, in every case I think you will find that to be true.”
As if to illustrate his commitment to being a good neighbor, Freeman listed a series of compromises already made to the design including:
• removing the needle and one observation deck as well as sinking the base into a 100-foot basin, which will lower the overall height from 325 feet to 150 feet.
• changing the direction of the coaster drop to face north and south rather than east-west, removing visual access to Interstate 75.
• removing the bright LED lighting planned for the base and deck. Also there will be no flashing neon lights as originally planned.
• scaling down the hours of operation by 30 percent; and
• ordering an acoustic study to ensure the noise level is compatible with the surrounding community.
Freeman also said he had no plans to make the development into a theme park, although many visitors will want to go to an amusement park.
“We can’t provide our guests with an amusement park and we don’t want to,” he said. “So we have worked out a partnership with Six Flags to accommodate our visitors that want to go to an amusement park.”
Resident Jeff Kohler countered, “Soon as you put in a roller coaster — call it a PolerCoaster if you want — it ceases to be a sporting complex and becomes a theme park.”
Most of the speakers were supportive of the project itself but not the PolerCoaster.
“This [LakePoint] is a fabulous concept, but the roller coaster isn’t compatible with the surrounding area,” Cynthia Wainscott said. “Is the roller coaster really viable? Can it [the observation tower] be built without the roller coaster?”
“My analysis says ‘no,’” Freeman said. “Just an observation deck won’t pay the bills. It’s not economically viable. We need a bigger revenue stream to pay the bills.”
Others questioned various aspects of the proposal, including noise and light pollution, the number of jobs it would create, the need for increased security, the effect on house values and taxes that would be paid into Emerson’s coffer.
Noting that the original presentation had expanded, Barbara Davis Mason asked what was coming next.
“Your development has a different footprint than most developments,” she said. “You can’t keep going. There has to be limits — how much traffic, how many people, how much land — what are the limits?”
Freeman said that physical limitations would keep the project from getting too big.
“If nothing else, LakePoint is limited by space requirements,” he said. “We only have so much parking space.”
Former Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter, an Emerson resident, probably asked the most succinct question of the night.
“What’s in it for us?” he asked. “We are making a great investment with our taxes. When is our money going to come back to us?”