Time for a decision

Published 11:51 pm Saturday, May 5, 2007

By Staff
As they talked about what to do with the former Evans Seafood property Thursday, Washington’s City Council members and mayor demonstrated they have done some careful contemplating of the issue.
Agree or disagree with their views and reasoning for those views, at least they are thinking about the matter.
But there comes a point when thinking, contemplating and analyzing must come to an end and be replaced by action. With the former Evans Seafood property, that time has come, if it’s not past due.
The City Council, sometime in the next 60 days at most, should make a decision on what to do with the half-acre of land on the Washington waterfront. The 60-day limit is more than generous. It’s time that council takes the bat off its shoulder and takes a swing.
Back to the careful contemplation.
As they talked about appropriate uses for the land — a hotel, retail, residential and green space — council members and the mayor listed advantages and disadvantages of each use.
Take green space, for example. Council members and the mayor recognized that using the site as green space would provide an unrestricted view of the Pamlico River, enhance the quality of life and keep the land in the public domain. They also recognized using the land as green space would keep it off the city’s tax rolls and require the city to spend money to maintain the green space.
If the land were to be used as open space, council members and the mayor said they would like to see improvements made to the land and adjacent, existing green space so they would be more user-friendly. The mayor and council members discussed whether use of that open space should be passive or aggressive.
Passive use would include activities such as picnicking, tossing Frisbees, flying kites and walking pets. Aggressive uses would include an amphitheater or some form of performance venue that would generate noise and result in increased traffic and parking problems.
Jennette also said the open space should be landscaped so it looks better.
Council members and the mayor also said city residents should have a voice in how that open space should be used and how it should look.
Perhaps the best idea tossed around by the mayor and council is the one that calls for putting the green space adjacent to the former Evans Seafood property in some trust or other agreement that would keep those areas as green space forever. Council members and the mayor agreed that course of action should be pursued.
Yet, the decision on whether to sell the half-acre site remains.
As Councilman Mickey Gahagan pointed out, the question of revenue enters the equation when talking about the city getting maximum benefit from selling the land.
Gahagan believes benefits the city would obtain from selling the land must be worth more than the money the city would get from selling it. The councilman said the city could easily sell the land to someone for more than it’s appraised, which would provide the city a one-time source of revenue. If the city chose to sell the land at a lower price to a developer who built a hotel on the site, the city would not only receive revenue from the sale, but it also would receive revenue generated by property taxes on the hotel and occupancy taxes paid by people staying at the hotel, Gahagan noted. A hotel would provide a recurring source of revenue for the city, he said.
There’s no doubt city officials have done some serious thinking about the half-acre site and surrounding land. It’s possible more thinking could result in the council choosing to keep the land, maintaining the status quo.
All that thinking is a good thing. A decision — in the near future — on what to do with the land would be even better.