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Council cobbles list of priorities

By Staff
New police station and public restrooms are at top of the list
By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
GOOSE CREEK STATE PARK — Washington’s City Council has identified four top objectives it wants to accomplish or at least begin working on in the next two years.
Those objectives are attracting and supporting appropriate downtown development, building a new police station, developing a plan to guide development along the U.S. Highway 17 Business corridor and building restroom and boater facilities near the waterfront to replace temporary facilities that have been there for five years. During its annual planning session, held Wednesday at Goose Creek State Park, the council identified other objectives for it to accomplish.
A goal of the planning session was for the council to set priorities to provide guidance to city staff members in addressing those priorities as they prepare their parts of the city’s next budget. Another goal of the planning session was to provide the council guidance about its work agenda for the coming fiscal year.
Council members agreed a new police station is needed. They indicated planning for a new station should begin as soon as possible, with the possibility a new station being built within five years.
Police Chief Mick Reed told the council the existing station, which opened in 1975, is not adequate to meet current standards concerning police stations. The existing station has 6,900 square feet of space. A study conducted five years ago concluded a new station would need a minimum of 19,500 square feet. Reed also said some requirements for police stations have changed since that study was conducted.
City Manager James C. Smith recommended a needs analysis for a new police station be conducted as the “next step” in addressing the issue.
Council members also indicated it’s time for the city to replace the temporary restrooms at the west end of Stewart Parkway. Those facilities have been at the location for five years. Some of the restrooms are open to the public. Other restrooms and showers are open only to boaters who are using city docks.
Councilman Archie Jennings said the only question left for the city to answer is where the permanent restrooms should go.
The council learned the representatives from the city’s planning and parks-and-recreation departments, downtown merchants’ group and Downtown Washington on the Waterfront have been working to identify possible sites for the permanent restrooms. Councilman Gil Davis was assigned to oversee the restroom project.
The council wants a plan for the U.S. Highway 17 Business corridor (the existing U.S. 17 through the heart of the city) to address existing and future land uses in that corridor, which runs from the Lowe’s home-improvement store to an area near the former Park Boat Co. site between the city and Chocowinity. The council wants those land uses to be compatible. It also wants design standards for any future development that may occur in that corridor.
Council members want to protect the corridor from deteriorating aesthetically and being inappropriately developed.
During discussion about downtown development, council members talked about forming a hotel task force. Council members said that task force should determine if it’s economically feasible to have a hotel in the downtown district and where in that district a hotel should be located.
The council named Jennings to oversee the downtown hotel issue.
Jennings said he wanted people to realize the city has supported four efforts in recent years to bring a downtown hotel to Washington. Jennings, who opposed at least one of those efforts, said the city’s support of those efforts shows it is not opposed to development.
Council members said that when it comes to appropriate development in the city’s central business district, the city must remove obstacles that prevent such development from happening and provide incentives that encourage appropriate development. At the same time, council members said, the city must protect its historic structures and heritage from inappropriate development.
For more coverage of the council’s planning session, see future editions of the Daily News.