To the Editor,
In February 2014 the city of Mount Airy bought the Spencer’s Mill Property and in April 2014 the city council created the Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission specifically to deal with their purchase. The RDC was made up of 5 citizens who brought different strengths to the RDC and two city commissioners. The majority of the Mount Airy city council had no idea what a RDC could or couldn’t do and didn’t make an effort to find out, they just wanted someone else to deal with it.
The guiding principle for a redevelopment commission is to recognize non-residential areas of blight as defined in NCGS 16A-503(10) and implement plans to redevelop these areas. The Mount Airy RDC had a vision beyond the Spencers property that would allow nearby property owners to improve their properties through grants or low interest loans, if they so desired. On Jan.y 21, 2016 the city council by a vote of 4-1 dissolved the RDC citing, overreach by the group. The Mount Airy city council never met with the RDC to discuss how they could work better together.
One the RDC was abolished, the commissioners hired Charlotte attorney Mac McCarley to advise them. To date, the city has spent over $50,000 in legal fees for guidance the members of the dissolved RDC had provided for free as volunteers on the RDC commission. Fast forward to October 2017, the same city council members voted to postpone approving the request for an amendment to alter the scope of plans for an old manufacturing plant involved in the redevelopment project from business/performing arts center to advanced textile manufacturing with a commitment to spend $3 million and full support from the proposed developers planning to build the hotel/banquet center and upscale apartments.
Unfortunately, the city commission does not understand that manufacturing jobs are gold! Fifty people working 30 to 40 hours a week downtown on the Spencer’s property is worth more than any performing arts center to the downtown economy, the city of Mount Airy and Surry County. Tom Webb and his Fabrica group are trying to breathe sustainable life into a tourist driven economy in downtown Mount Airy and the city council needed to think about it.
The MO of the city council is to bow to public perception fueled by the local newspaper and the vocal opponents of a project. They have a history of making decisions on the fly at one meeting and postponing important decisions at another. If the Spencer’s Mill property is going to be developed, the city council will have to make some unpopular choices. Oh, and let’s hope the developers of the hotel/banquet center don’t see Tom Webb’s action as a lack of confidence in the city commissioners and bail too.