Columbia officials assess conditions as first step toward new development plan

Published 1:11 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Columbia Mayor James Cahoon on May 7 reported on the recent in-depth look he and others took at present town conditions and potential actions aimed at improvements.

Cahoon, Mayor pro-tem Sandra Owens, Alderman Hal Fleming and Town Manager Rhett White held a lengthy workshop on April 19 that focused on Vision 20/20, the town’s development plan for the current decade, as well as a dozen other subjects relating to the town’s prosperity.

A significant need is for overnight accommodations, and recruiting a motel/hotel in the town will require a prospectus, aid from the NC Department of Commerce, and likely tax incentives from the town and Tyrrell County.

At present 32 properties are in some stage of tax foreclosure proceedings, and 13 business properties are either vacant or housing irregularly operated activities.

At least 55 rental properties exist in the town, along with three mobile home parks, two publicly subsidized housing complexes, and six apartment houses.

The officials agreed there appears to be no pride in ownership, and a fix-up, clean-up, spruce-up initiative is needed to keep up property and improve appearances.

The consensus was that a “defeated” mindset and frustration are widespread among affected property owners in the many months that have past since Hurricanes Irene and Matthew seriously damaged sections of the community.

Work is actually occurring at North Boundary Canal and North Road Street on a flood-mitigation project has been planned and discussed for years. New poles have been set in place and power lines moved to them. Telephone and tv/internet cable lines, along with underground water and sewer mains, still must be relocated before the larger canal drainage culvert can be placed and roadway improvements made.

A tide gate is due to be installed in Bush Harrell Canal, and the group agreed attention must also be given to drainage in the areas of Scottsville and Cypress streets.

Parks, the Children’s Playground, and streets need attention and upgrading.

Christmas decorations are 25 years old and need to be replaced, with decorations on the Scuppernong River bridge a priority.

Developing a plan for the next decade should begin now, the mayor urged.

The town budget, which must be approved by June 30, may see inclusion of some of the needed projects.