While Mount Airy commissioners were generally open to considering the city redevelopment commission’s (RDC) proposal for offering redevelopment grants to property owners in the redevelopment zone, that should take a back seat for now.
The general sentiment of commissioners contacted Friday was that the development of the Spencer’s property should be undertaken first, without infringing on the private property owners. That has been the position of the majority of the city council, which was punctuated by election victories last month among officials taking that stand.
“I’m in favor of moving on with the Spencer’s development and taking some time to work out this other problem,” Commissioner Dean Brown said of the grant assistance for private properties.
“And I really don’t believe the property owners should be included in it (the redevelopment plan) unless they ask to be because it is a violation of their constitutional rights to just take them in,” he said.
“And I think the majority of the voters in the city agree with me on it,” Brown continued, saying he has been approached by numerous citizens who share that opinion and voted on Nov. 3 in support of him and other candidates with this view.
“I’ve had hundreds of people tell me face to face and eye to eye,” Brown said.
“And I’ve got to continue to stand by that, because I think it’s right.”
Commissioner Shirley Brinkley also reiterated Friday the same position she has taken on the matter, that the Spencer’s property should be developed first before considering any others.
This would allow the city to take advantage of tax credits available for redevelopment of former mill sites before a deadline, while also generating revenues from revitalization — “and then move forward,” Brinkley said.
“Get Spencer’s taken care of — and go on from there,” she added.
“I want what’s best for the property owners … and redevelopment,” she said, “I’m not against redevelopment — I want that firm.”
While Commissioner Jim Armbrister said the grant package is an attempt to get the property owners to “buy in” to the redevelopment plan, their wishes must be respected in the final analysis.
“I took a stand to protect (that),” Armbrister said.
“As of right now, I haven’t changed my standpoint from where it was — the people spoke.”
RDC’s Focus on Spencer’s
“The Spencer’s property continues to be our main focus,” Chip Pulliam, the vice chairman of the Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission, emphasized Friday, saying it will be Job One.
He said the goal behind the grant program is simple:
“Its intent … is to address some of the concerns we have heard from some of the property owners,” Pulliam said. “We hope those have been addressed.”
Since the grant program has been publicized, much positive feedback has been received, according to Pulliam, which includes commissioners, at least one property owner affected and the city’s new mayor, David Rowe.
Rowe reacted “very positively” to the proposal, Pulliam said.
But it remains to be seen how the support for the grant program holds up over time, in the face of funding and other uncertainties in the minds of the commissioners — those who hold the purse strings.
“It’s a good compromise,” Commissioner Brown said of the plan’s possibilities, “but a lot of work needs to be done.”
Pulliam also conceded that point Friday.
“This will require some decisions by the city commissioners.”