The Transylvania Times -

By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

County Park Decision Delayed

 

January 31, 2019



The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners voted to extend the due diligence period to Oct. 31 on whether to buy the roughly 55 acres behind the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club off Gallimore Road in Brevard.

During their regular meeting Monday, comm-issioners voted 4-1 to also apply for state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grants, to have the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission and general public involved in the process, and to thank Brevard College for being a “strong community part-ner.”

As previously reported, the county currently has the college-owned property under contract, with due diligence ending in two weeks, for a purchase price of $440,000.

The property’s tax value is $515,750 and it has been appraised for $460,000. As well as applying for PARTF grants, which typically require a 50 percent match, the county could seek stream and wetland banking credits for the property, which could bring in about $150,000.

Also, to help pay for the property, in 2016 commissioners set aside a 2-cent property tax increase — to be set aside each year — for recreation-based capital improvements. As of today, the county has roughly $750,000 from the tax increase.

The property was formerly part of the late Charles Pickelsimer’s estate and was used primarily as a private airplane runway. Pickelsimer willed the property to the college.

The property came to the attention of the Transylvania Economic Alliance during its efforts to help identify locations to support a new or expanding light industrial business.

The county has a limited inventory of sites suitable for economic development.

The Alliance decided, because of the presence of floodplain and floodway, the site was not viable for traditional economic development but could be turned into a county park.

During Monday’s meeting and prior to commissioners voting on extending the due diligence period, a public hearing was held on the proposal. Of the 11 people who spoke, six were against buying the property, four spoke in favor and one was noncommittal.

Those who spoke against included Larry Wilson, who called the roughly 55 acres, which sits adjacent to the French Broad River, “swamp land” riddled with holes created by groundhogs. John Gustafson said he grew up overlooking the property and once “canoed” on the property, which he said floods frequently and is a “mud hole.”

Rick Bellini said he would prefer funds be used to improve the county’s current recreational facilities.

Allen Mercaldo, who lives off Sugarloaf Road, urged commissioners to reject the proposal and noted there hasn’t been any discussion about potential noise and light population impacts and increased traffic.

Karen Stark believes there is no guarantee that the county will receive the grants and tax credits. She said it would cost a lot of money to make the property useable.

During Wilson’s comments, he also suggested buying the property would not “create a job,” that the county was “lagging behind” in job creation, and county officials needed to provide incentives to attract business and industry.

As previously reported, the Alliance not only recommended that the county buy the roughly 55 acres for a park but said it could be a catalyst for economic development. The Alliance proposed that the property could be used to house the two softball/baseball fields and two multi-use fields, which are county owned, that currently sit near the Parks and Recreation Center behind Pisgah Forest Elementary School.

The four fields, which make up roughly 30 acres, could then be incorporated into the nearby Jennings Industrial Park.

Alliance officials emphasized the proposal would not impact the recreation center, the fields adjacent to the elementary school or the city of Brevard’s ball fields off Ecusta Road.

Initial conceptual plans for the industrial park’s expansion show the creation of 170,000 square feet of space, with sites ranging from 3 to 11 acres and a variety of building configurations.

Among those who spoke in support of buying the property was Don Gentle, who serves on the Boys & Girls Club board. He accepted that the property is a “challenging piece” but that it could benefit the club. He also supported the Alliance’s proposal of expanding the Jennings Industrial Park.

Davis Whitfield-Cargile, who also lives off Sugarloaf Road, suggested he was initially skeptical of the proposal but now supports it, including the industrial development component.

He noted the Rosman ball fields are located in a flooded area.

Jimmy Perkins said there are “lots of pros and cons to weigh” and that flooding is an “issue.”

He said, however, that he’s traveled around Western North Carolina and visited a lot of parks and soccer complexes that are located in floodplains. He said the industrial property piece would make the project a “win-win.”

Edwin Jones said he’d visited Japan several times, that vacant land is in short supply, and that sports complexes and golf courses in the country are located in river floodplains.

Dee Dee Perkins, an Alliance board member, talked about the challenge for county officials to find economic development opportunities, particularly available land upon which to develop. She referenced the recent opening of the industrial building on Ecusta Road and that this latest proposal was an “opportunity” to create more economic development sites.

Commissioner Comments

Commissioner David Guice said that since being elected he’s spent a lot of time looking into the proposal, meeting with Alliance staff and board members, the Parks and Recreation Commission and the public. He said that it was important to him that there is “transparency.”

He referenced the county’s Recreation Master Plan, which highlights the need for additional recreation amenities.

He said extending the due diligence period will allow the Parks and Recreation Commission and the public to be more involved in the project.

He said it would be a “tremendous asset” to have a park near one of the entrances to the city and for it to provide “passive” recreational opportunities, such as trails and picnic tables, to those unable to adventure out in Gorges State Park or DuPont State Recreational Forest.

He also talked about other areas in the region where public spaces are located in the floodplain, while also mentioning that he would need to be convinced that moving any of the county’s ball fields would be an enhancement. He closed by talking about the Alliance and how he appreciated the work it’s done and is doing.

Commissioner Jason Chappell, who voted against moving forward, believes the county would face significant yearly costs cleaning up the property because of flooding. He preferred using any PARTF grants to improve current recreation facilities.

Commissioner Will Cathey mentioned letting the property to be “fallow” and said he didn’t support spending a lot of money to purchase the property.

Commission Chairman Mike Hawkins said extending the due diligence period to Oct. 31 made sense and allows the county to address questions and issues, to get the facts and to make a good decision.

More from the meeting will appear in Monday’s paper.

 
 

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