11/22/11 — Council talks about facade grant

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Council talks about facade grant

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on November 22, 2011 1:46 PM

A work session presentation on Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp.'s facade grant brought about the most discussion Monday night during a Goldsboro City Council meeting that was otherwise uneventful.

The presentation by DGDC Design Committee Chairman Glenn Barwick included dozens of examples within the municipal service district where the facade grant benefited property owners and tenants.

But that didn't address Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen's true concerns, Allen said, adding that he felt the presentation was directed at him due to comments he had made previously about removing the grants from the municipal service district budget.

"I don't think there's anybody in this room that has worked harder on downtown," said Allen, who received a facade grant to renovate his Lofts on James apartment complex. "I feel like the dream should be to make property owners clean up their properties. Never once did I say (the facade grants) weren't good. I just think we should be more proactive. There are things we can do immediately. I want to be sure we're looking after what we've got."

Allen mentioned having planters and making other low-cost investments into downtown to give it a "loved look," as well as enforcing codes and ordinances on buildings to force property owners to clean up their buildings. He also mentioned the idea of getting new Christmas decorations to replace the current ones, which he said were getting "ragged."

Barwick concurred that he and the DGDC board of directors still felt like there was more that could be done.

"As a board, we're not convinced we've been proactive enough," he said.

His presentation also included some ideas for the organization to become more involved in soliciting applications for facade grants, including using graduate student interns to produce renderings showing possible uses for downtown properties. DGDC Director Julie Thompson later said that all of the 20 projects selected for artist renderings previously had been done in reality as well.

He also proposed allowing artists to display art in vacant business buildings and allowing artists to create false facades on storefronts in partnership with the Arts Council of Wayne County to make empty storefronts look like they are in use.

Showing possible uses for the buildings would hopefully entice businesses to invest in downtown, he said, adding that there were 50 vacant buildings within the municipal service district.

Moving through the work session, Planning Director Randy Guthrie informed the council that he found out Friday that the Department of Justice had approved the city's redistricting plans, meaning the delayed elections will be held using the new district map. The filing date is Feb. 13, with a May 8 primary and an election scheduled for June 26.

Stoney Creek's stream enhancement project was also discussed during the work session, as Fluvial Solutions will perform some cleanup work to rid the stream of trees downed during Hurricane Irene. The cost, which will come from the contingency line item of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, will be $12,500.

Stoney Creek will also be considered for another project, although the scope of it will be somewhat smaller, which will allow for the restoration of the stream to increase water quality as it flows into the Neuse River.

One item from the consent agenda was tabled, however, due to the lack of understanding of the proposal by the council members and the presenter.

Engineering Director Marty Anderson wasn't sure what item K, a memorandum to correct speed limit overlaps on Stevens Mill Road, would actually mean for motorists, despite the use of a rudimentary map to show the affected area.

The memo essentially would make the speed limit 20 mph from the Cherry Hospital intersection southwest for three-tenths of a mile where the speed limit would increase to 45 mph for .658 miles. More information will be presented at a future meeting where the item will be considered for approval.

Public hearings on five issues brought only two speakers -- the individuals who filed for conditional use permits for Internet cafe/sweepstakes establishments in the city limits.

Rumzi Allan and Parkash Patel both intend to bring the gaming establishments into town, with Allan's on West Patetown Road at Northgate Shopping Center and Patel's on Highway 70 West in the Rosewood Wal-Mart Shopping Center.

Allan's will begin with five computers, although he plans to expand, while Patel's, which is in a larger space, will feature 30 computers. Patel already manages a similar establishment at 217 N. Berkeley Boulevard.

The number of computers is especially important to the city, as there is a privilege license tax of $2,500 per establishment and $500 per computer collected from each business owner at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Three voluntary annexation requests were approved unanimously by council, bringing more than 160 acres into the city limits, although most of it came from the annexation of Waynesborough Park. The historic town was the first county seat of Wayne County, built along the banks of the Neuse River and joins the Goldsboro city limits 164 years after Goldsboro became the center of the county government.

The consent agenda also included street closing requests for Downtown Lights Up this evening and the Goldsboro Jaycees Christmas Parade Dec. 3. The northbound lane of the 200 block of Center Street will be closed from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. today and most of downtown's streets will be closed Dec. 3 from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Council also made a decision on the rezoning of Franklin Baking Company's land in order to expand its business, opting to deny the request without prejudice to allow the company to apply for conditional district rezoning without being required to wait six months. The conditional district rezoning has certain restrictions and limitations. A formal protest was filed by residents around the area who said they felt any business expansion may be disruptive to the neighborhood.