New Hanover Co. commissioners urge Folwell to add Project Grace item to LGC calendar
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The New Hanover Board of Commissioners has written a letter to N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell and the Local Government Commission (LGC) urging them to add the Project Grace debt issuance item to the LGC’s Sept. 12 meeting.
According to the letter, county staff was told by LGC staff on Friday, August 12, that it would not calendar the item.
“The reasons noted by staff are twofold: 1, You do not like or approve the site, 2) you do not believe debt is necessary for our project,” the letter from the board states. “We are disappointed by your position and ask that you reconsider calendaring our application.”
On Aug. 7, the board of commissioners voted to move forward with a new development agreement for a project to transform the block that contains the New Hanover County Public Library Main Branch.
The new agreement with Cape Fear Development to create Project Grace saves about $4.6 million compared to the agreement approved in May, according to the county.
The maximum price for the facility construction, parking deck improvements, and development fee would not exceed $55.9 million in the proposed agreement.
The project includes a new 95,000-square-foot facility to house the library and Cape Fear Museum.
In addressing Folwell’s location concerns, the commissioners stated in their letter that they felt the county-owned block bordered by Grace, 2nd, Chestnut, and 3rd streets, was the optimal location for making a “transformative” change downtown.
“The block is currently underutilized, but with our development agreement we will not only be able to build a state-of-the-art and purpose-designed facility for our library and museum, we will also be able to transform the block with private investment that will benefit our economy and be an asset for residents and visitors.”
The commissioners also stated that while the county does have a $300 million Revenue Stabilization Fund from the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, they intend to preserve these funds for “economic crises and for tax and fees stabilization” purposes.
“We do not take borrowing lightly and have ensured that we will not have to raise taxes for our residents in order to afford the debt that is before the LGC for consideration,” the letter states.
The board asks that Folwell adds the item to the Sept. 12 agenda, and if he is unwilling, it asks the LGC members to make a motion to place it on the agenda.
“We are committed to a new museum and library on our downtown block because it has transformational power and possibilities for New Hanover County,” the letter said, “and we ask that you give us the consideration of a vote because we have met the statutory parameters for LGC consideration.”
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