§ 160A-458.3. Downtown development projects.
(a) In this section, “downtown development project” means a capital project in the city’s central business district, as that district is defined by the city council, comprising one or more buildings and including both public and private facilities. By way of illustration but not limitation, such a project might include a single building comprising a publicly owned parking structure and publicly owned convention center and a privately owned hotel or office building.
(b) If the city council finds that it is likely to have a significant effect on the revitalization of the central business district, the city may acquire, construct, own, and operate or participate in the acquisition, construction, ownership, and operation of a downtown development project or of specific facilities within such a project. The city may enter into binding contracts with one or more private developers with respect to acquiring, constructing, owning, or operating such a project.
Such a contract may, among other provisions, specify the following:
(1) The property interests of both the city and the developer or developers in the project, provided that the property interests of the city shall be limited to facilities for a public purpose;
(2) The responsibilities of the city and the developer or developers for construction of the project;
(3) The responsibilities of the city and the developer or developers with respect to financing the project.
Such a contract may be entered into before the acquisition of any real property necessary to the project.
(c) A downtown development project may be constructed on property acquired by the developer or developers, on property directly acquired by the city, or on property acquired by the city while exercising the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a redevelopment commission pursuant to G.S. 160A-505 or G.S. 160A-456.
(d) In connection with a downtown development project, the city may convey interests in property owned by it, including air rights over public facilities, as follows:
(1) If the property was acquired while the city was exercising the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a redevelopment commission, the city may convey property interests pursuant to the “Urban Redevelopment Law” or any local modification thereof.
(2) If the property was acquired by the city directly, the city may convey property interests pursuant to G.S. 160A-457, and Article 12 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes does not apply to such dispositions.
(3) In lieu of conveying the fee interest in air rights, the city may convey a leasehold interest for a period not to exceed 99 years, using the procedures of subparagraphs (1) or (2) of this subsection, as applicable.
(e) The contract between the city and the developer or developers may provide that the developer or developers shall be responsible for construction of the entire downtown development project. If so, the contract shall include such provisions as the city council deems sufficient to assure that the public facility or facilities included in the project meet the needs of the city and are constructed at a reasonable price. A project constructed pursuant to this paragraph is not subject to Article 8 of Chapter 143 of the General Statutes, provided that city funds constitute no more than fifty percent (50%) of the total costs of the downtown development project. Federal funds available for loan to private developers in connection with a downtown development project shall not be considered city funds for purposes of this subsection.
(f) Operation. – The city may contract for the operation of any public facility or facilities included in a downtown redevelopment project by a person, partnership, firm or corporation, public or private. Such a contract shall include provisions sufficient to assure that any such facility or facilities are operated for the benefit of the citizens of the city.
(g) Grant funds. – To assist in the financing of its share of a downtown development project, the city may apply for, accept and expend grant funds from the federal or State governments. (1987, c. 619, s. 1.)
So there’s some law. Some law that’s only as good as the paper it’s written on if it’s not followed or enforced. So let’s explore what’s going on in Fayetteville. Put on your thinking cap and apply the law to the facts of our city’s new downtown parking deck.
When it comes to downtown parking for Woodpeckers games, you might be interested to know that you will not be parking in the new garage overlooking the $40-plus million stadium – not unless you are living in “The Gathering at Prince Charles” or working in an office there.”
“Generally there will be no parking in the parking deck for Woodpeckers patrons.”
“The parking deck will be for office patrons….Hyatt hotel customers and apartment-holders at “The Gathering at Prince Charles…“
If your thinking cap stayed on amid the gusts of obvious blowing in your direction, you quickly realized that Fayetteville’s deal with Prince Charles Holdings doesn’t “mesh” very well with the above statute. So how’d this happen? In short, we wanted to build a stadium without raising taxes, and the guys who wrote the book on downtown development came calling with a “win-win” for the City and…….well…themselves.
Proponents of the deal (and the attorneys who drafted the contract between PCH and the City) will maintain that “economic development” is a public purpose. In short, the deck and the deal will boost tax revenue and spur other growth downtown, and so the contract passes the test. See: Maready v. City of Winston-Salem, 342 N.C. 708 (1996).
If that’s the case, then why don’t we simply give private developers bags of cash if they invest in downtown Fayetteville? It’s what we’re doing already, and it’s a lot more honest. We could even bid it out beforehand to find the developer that would accept the lightest bag of cash in exchange for building a hotel downtown. A minority or local developer would, of course, in keeping with City policy, get a little bit heavier bag of cash if he or she wants to bid.
Seem absurd? So does buying a parking deck, then leasing it back to the person you bought it from at a loss when you could’ve really used the parking spaces.
I know I should stop beating this dead horse. You’re probably tired of reading about it. But the law and the North Carolina Constitution haven’t changed in the year or so that I’ve been on it. Nor are they likely to change in three weeks, when the first pitch is thrown in Segra Stadium and we finally find out whether we’ve got ample parking to handle all the the development we’ve “encouraged” by toeing legal lines.
The problem with toeing the line is you can’t go back if you accidentally cross it.
In the end, the deck isn’t finished, and the City hasn’t purchased it…yet.
Maybe it’s time to take a step back and get all of this right?
Until then, thanks for reading.