Last updated: April 22. 2014 4:22PM - 595 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

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The job of selecting five finalists for a redevelopment commission approved on April 3 by Mount Airy officials amid controversy will rest with Mayor Deborah Cochran, who says her goal is a “diverse board.”

Citizens have been wary of the extensive powers the new commission will wield in mounting redevelopment plans for areas of town deemed as blighted, including seizing private properties through eminent domain. Concerns also have been expressed that the group would be “padded” with profit-seeking businessmen who would not act in the best interests of citizens as a whole.

However, the mayor indicated Tuesday that she will seek to choose individuals who are both qualified and represent diverse backgrounds to serve with the group that will identify blighted areas and devise ways for making them economically viable.

As of Tuesday, six people had applied to become part of the redevelopment commission, which will have seven members in all. Two are city commissioners, Jim Armbrister and Steve Yokeley, who agreed to serve after critics questioned the idea of having members who wouldn’t be accountable at the ballot box for actions of the group.

May 1 at 5 p.m. is the application deadline, with would-be members required to submit letters stating an interest in serving and listing their relevant qualifications, such as a real estate or financial background.

“It will be a big challenge,” the mayor said Tuesday of choosing the five best candidates, which will be submitted to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners for final approval during a meeting on May 15. “I’ll do a lot of praying as I always do.”

Cochran added that she will “look at the backgrounds” of those applying and seek to pick those who can bring the desired level of expertise to the redevelopment commission. “And, of course, we’ll want a diverse board,” she said.

“Diversity is always great.”

The screening task that has been delegated to the mayor originated with a member of the city council, the mayor said. “Steve Yokeley came up with the idea — he mentioned it,” she said.

But Cochran said it is a routine practice for her to play such a role in the selection of members for the municipality’s various advisory boards, such as the local airport authority. ‘“The mayor does typically make the committee recommendations.”

She added that something which helps in this regard is the fact that she is a longtime Mount Airy resident and radio personality who is familiar with those living here.

“I’ve lived here my whole life — of course, I think Steve thinks I know people,” she said. “Most of the people, I’ve met somewhere along the way.”

In addition to being empowered under the state’s urban development law to seize commercial or residential parcels deemed as blighted in order to further economic-development projects in the the public interest, the commission will have other powers. These include the authority to clear property by razing existing buildings; install or construct site improvements; enter into contracts for construction, demolition, moving of structures and repair work; and implement programs of compulsory repair and rehabilitation using minimum building codes.

Ways To Apply

Several avenues exist for applying for the redevelopment commission, members of which must be city residents. This can be done:

• In person to the city clerk at the Municipal Building at 300 S. Main St.

• Through the U.S. Postal Service — letters should be addressed to the city clerk or deputy clerk at 300 S. Main St., Mount Airy, N.C., 27030.

• By email to City Clerk Nicki Brame at nbrame@mountairy.org or Deputy Clerk Carolyn Hegler at chegler@mountairy.org.

• By faxing letters of interest to 336-719-7506.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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