Our View: Council fails the leadership test on apartment project

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The next time your car bumps along Road Street between Ehringhaus and Elizabeth streets, shaking and groaning for all its worth, thank city councilors Michael Brooks, Johnnie Walton, Anita Hummer, Rickey King, Ray Donnelly and Darius Horton.

Similarly, thank them if your city property taxes have to go up this year by at least a penny.

And you can thank them, too, the next time you hear some young person say they’d have liked to stay in Elizabeth City, but decided not to because they couldn’t find enough good options for an apartment that’s not federally subsidized.

Also thank them the next time a developer or employer passes on Elizabeth City as a too-risky place to do business.

The six councilors deserve a lot of thanks for these things and probably plenty of others following their decision last week to shoot down the annexation of a proposed 216-unit apartment complex into the city limits.

We’re being facetious of course. Thanks is not what the six councilors deserve following such an incredibly wrongheaded decision.

Mark Gregory, the developer of the 216-unit apartment complex the councilors rejected, would have been required to pay the city a total of $1.3 million in water and sewer impact fees if the property he wanted to buy was both rezoned and annexed. That turns out to be about what the city needs to replace the decrepit water and sewer infrastructure beneath the quarter-mile of Road Street. The city has been told repeatedly by the N.C. Department of Transportation that it won’t fix that section of Road Street until the city replaces the water and sewer lines beneath the street. City officials thought they finally had a revenue source to pay the $1.3 million cost of those upgrades. And it seems they did until the decision by council to reject Gregory’s project and the impact fees that would have come with it.

Gregory’s project also would have generated more than $100,000 in annual property tax revenue for the city — and more than that for Pasquotank County — the rough equivalent of about a penny on the city’s tax rate. There are also the utility payments the city would have collected from residents of the apartment complex, and the sales tax revenue the city and county would have received from apartment dwellers’ expenditures at restaurants and stores.

To turn down these kind of benefits, you would think the case against Gregory’s apartment project would be pretty strong.

But no, there was no legitimate case against Gregory’s project. All there was overheated fear-mongering from homeowners of Millbrooke, a small, single-family subdivision that adjoins the property where the apartment complex would have been built. Millbrooke homeowners raised all the familiar boogeymen against Gregory’s apartment complex — that it would create unsafe increases in traffic, cause additional flooding woes and lower property values. Millbrooke residents continued to throw out these objections despite the fact Gregory addressed their concerns about traffic by redesigning his project’s entrances so they were only on Body Road, not Millbrooke Circle, which they use to enter their subdivision, and in spite of city assurances that the apartments’ drainage features would actually improve stormwater flow in their own neighborhood.

As for their claim about decreased property values, it seems strange coming from people who chose to buy homes in a subdivision created just off a five-lane highway — Halstead Boulevard — and near a corridor already sprinkled with a mixture of residential and commercial uses, including two major car dealerships.

Probably the most egregious charge thrown at the apartment complex, however, was one repeated by Brooks, who cast himself as the leading voice on City Council in opposition to the project: that it would somehow be a vessel of crime to Millbrooke. Brooks has claimed in the past that Roanoke Avenue, which Body Road becomes once it crosses Halstead Boulevard, has been unfairly slandered by city officials as a high-crime area. It was inexplicable then, why he would claim Gregory’s apartment project would be a conduit for Roanoke Avenue’s crime to reach Millbrooke. If there is no high crime on Roanoke, as Brooks has claimed, how can it jump Halstead Boulevard, land in Gregory’s apartment complex and then infiltrate Millbrooke?

Of course, making sense has never been something Brooks is known for. It is, however, something we believed of Donnelly, King and Hummer. And why we’re surprised they would go along with this nonsense that punches the city in the nose to spite its face. We don’t know if Donnelly, King and Hummer truly were frightened by the fear-mongering of Millbrooke residents or just trying to appease Brooks and build a council that gets along better.

Regardless of their motivation, it certainly wasn’t leadership. Here’s hoping they’ll exercise some now and change their mind about Gregory’s project. Then thanking them wouldn’t be a joke.

Comments

Leadership Test Apartment

Leadership Test Apartment project all base on Votes and yes my vote always for Brooks because he deserve to become the leader having all qualities of leader in him. Infect, he is role model for me and he is my favorite politician. Well! My friend shared a site for dr who apparel which contain fabulous collection of those items which i want to buy from there.

votes

It was all about votes. If you put 216 units x 2 = 432 votes. Brooks 258 he gets each election would make him a looser. These people can count votes. 11

Talking out of both sides

I've often wondered why Mr Brooks has such a big mouth, after this fiasco I know why. He talks out of both sides so much its a necessity.

Apartment fiasco

As the DA said- "Of course, making sense has never been something Brooks is known for." This could certainly apply to Walton and Horton also. Particularly after their votes on the ECSU grant. The 4th ward reaps what it sows.

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