Hurricane Matthew wiped out dozens of dams in Cumberland County and Eastern North Carolina. Many Fayetteville residents with empty community lakes have called on the City of Fayetteville to assist with repairs. After all, the city is spending thousands on storm-water maintenance and collecting fees from taxpayers to address flooding issues.
The city has declined direct assistance to the affected residents, stating repeatedly through its leadership that it can’t use public money to repair their private dams:
City staff emphasized that its hands were tied as far as how much the city could do.
Deputy City Manager Kristoff Bauer emphasized that the city could not spend public money on private dams.
Councilman Jim Arp, who represents Loch Lomond, said he wants to find a solution to restore the lake. But he and Crisp said they are concerned about spending city money on private dams.
“It has to benefit all the taxpayers of Fayetteville,” Arp said.
To address the problem, the city has hatched a scheme to repair the dams on credit. The city handles the environmental and bureaucratic planning and makes the repairs, then charges neighborhood citizens for the repairs in tax assessments over a period of time.
In the City’s official policy, passed last year, a pertinent section reads:
VIII. Public Access:
Any project supported by public funding under the terms of this policy must provide public access to and use of any resulting water amenity. “Public Funding” as used herein shall refer to federal, state, or local tax or fee revenue including any revenue collected through the formation of a Special Assessment Project. Public access amenities may be an explicit service identified as the partial purpose of any Special Assessment Project formed.
Sounds fair, right? Public money = public access. Anyone can agree with that.
But wait. The City is spending 14+ million dollars in public money to purchase a 500 space parking deck to service a private hotel and private offices. The public will only have “access” to a small percentage of the parking spaces. The private company gets to lease and control 400+ spaces at below-market rates.
It seems that the public access requirement our city leaders are so fond of is thrown out the window when we are dealing with wealthy investors. How else can you explain the absence of public access as an “explicit service identified” in our deal with Prince Charles Holdings?
The rationale, according to our city leadership, is that the Prince Charles Holdings deal will will spur “economic development” downtown, and this economic development will benefit the public as a whole. In short, we are spending tax dollars and providing a “leg-up,” so that these private individuals will spend their money to develop downtown. The entire funding structure is based on projected property value increases.
Here’s the rub: the same city leaders have argued that dams do pretty much the same thing.
For many neighborhoods, Arp said, the lakes are more than just an amenity. The impounded water boosts property values, provides recreation and enhances a community’s identity.
Are you dizzy yet? We’re going in circles.
This, folks, is a double standard. It’s duplicitous nature emerged once your city leaders opened Pandora’s box and began doling out your tax dollars to private corporations to encourage them to invest in Fayetteville.
The Fayetteville City Council is now in the actual business of picking economic winners and losers.
Prince Charles Holdings wins. Fayetteville neighborhoods with empty lakes lose.