To the Editor,
Almost two years ago our City bought the Spencers property in order to control what happened to it. Shortly thereafter the idea of creating a Redevelopment Commission (RDC) for that property was brought before our Board of Commissioners (BOC). There was considerable opposition from public because an RDC would have substantial power such as the ability to borrow money and the power of Eminent Domain (taking private property). On a split vote BOC eventually gave approval to create an RDC it but also added some safeguards. One of which is that the final plan must be voted on by our BOC.
The purpose of the RDC was to find developers for the Spencers property. But it seems to me RDC has been unwilling to focus on just that. They want to control a large area stretching from Spencers all the way to the river and all the way across to Granite St. This includes up to 20 private properties, and involves major street changes that could cost city $5 – $10 million. Private property owners oppose that plan and BOC has said they will not approve a plan that involves private property.
That was the standoff situation as last fall’s city election season got under way. At stake were 3 Commissioner Seats plus the Mayor’s. Suddenly new candidates who pledged support to RDC showed up in an effort to take over those seats. The elections were hotly contested and the main issue by far was whether RDC should have control over private property. The answer from voters was a resounding NO! None of the candidates supporting RDC’s larger plan won any seats and those who pledged to restrict RDC won by wide margins. RDC has a relatively small but vocal group of cheerleaders who claim widespread support. But last November’s election showed the true measure of RDC support and it was pretty thin.
With such a strong election mandate one might think the controversy would end. All it would take is for RDC to simply focus on Spencers as they were supposed to instead of the larger area. But that has not happened; instead the RDC seems more determined than ever to have their way. Now we see RDC proposing “grants” to try to win over the property owners (50% for improvements and 100% for demolition). It sounds great until you know these “grants” would come from the city, which is our city tax money. This grant idea could cost a Million or two in addition to the $5 – $10 Million in street work.
Over the past year or so the RDC and their expanded plan has been told “no” by the property owners. Our duly elected BOC has said “no”. This past November the voters strongly told them “no”, and now even the NCDOT has said “no”. For RDC to continue to try to get their way is beyond stubborn. It is downright disrespectful to property owners, our elected BOC, and most of all to the voters. No wonder this controversy has continued to boil, yet the RDC blames the newspaper as well as anyone who disagrees. It is way past time for RDC to accept the will of the citizens and focus on developing Spencers, which is something everyone can support.