02/07/12 — Streetscape decision delayed, 4-3

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Streetscape decision delayed, 4-3

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on February 7, 2012 1:46 PM

Discussion of the Center Street Streetscape project will continue into the Goldsboro City Council's retreat Feb. 14-15 as council members voted 4-3 Monday night to delay a decision on it while authorizing the city's finance director to proceed with acquiring financing for the nearly $2 million project.

The meeting began with about 60 residents in the audience who, outside of 16 representatives from Smart Choices for Youth, were mostly gathered to speak against the project which aims to renovate the 200 block of North Center Street.

Opponents who spoke were particularly concerned about the cutting down of the city's holly trees which run down the Center Street median.

Still others said the money could be better used if it was invested into the properties and buildings downtown.

Allison Platt, who designed the Streetscape and the city's downtown master plan, spoke during the public comment period, explaining that the Center Street holly trees would be replaced nearly two-fold with shade-giving trees. She suggested the holly trees were already nearing the end of their lives before introducing the concept of moving some of the healthiest trees elsewhere.

She also shook off concerns about business losses downtown.

"It's time for the city to step up and believe in ourself," she said.

But during the public comment period, when eight individuals spoke against the project compared to two who spoke for it, Mayor Al King addressed those gathered, asking how many of them had attended information sessions explaining the scope and reasoning of the project. When only five members of the audience raised their hands, he explained that opponents to the project who attended those sessions had oftentimes embraced the project after learning more about it.

He explained that the project wasn't intended for those gathered in the audience, many of whom were long-time Goldsboro residents, but for future generations.

"It's not for us. It's not for me. It's for our future," King said.

He proposed having more information sessions to inform the public about the project -- a suggestion that was later included in a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen. Allen moved to delay a decision on Streetscape while seeking ways to better inform citizens and to allow Finance Director Kaye Scott to continue pursuing financing for the project.

Council members Don Chatman, Bob Waller and Jackie Warrick voted against the motion, which was approved 4-3 with Councilmen Michael Headen and the Rev. Charles Williams joining King and Allen in approval.

Following the meeting, Waller explained that the lack of long term plans and funds for the project had bothered him about it ever since the council began discussing it almost a year ago.

"We don't have those things in place," he said of the city's plans to fund future block renovations. "Roads, sidewalks -- those are my priorities. This one block is not."

King, who has supported the project from its beginning, said he had a feeling that many who did not support Streetscape didn't understand it.

"People are concerned about this," he conceded, but added that his council had done its due diligence and felt the city was moving in the right direction. "They question the financing because they seem to think we don't understand. We understand."

"I think (Mayor King) wants the public to know what an advantage having Streetscape can have on the Goldsboro community," said Geoff Hulse, president of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. board of directors.