On April 10, 2018, this website became the first media outlet to publish the development contract between the City of Fayetteville and Prince Charles Holdings (PCH). The post (No Parking: Fayetteville’s 14 Million Dollar Mistake) caused a small stir in the community and efforts were quickly dispatched to discredit it. City Manager, Doug Hewett, called the post “inaccurate” on public radio. Former Mayor, Tony Chavonne swept in with a “parking study” to show that everything was fine. The parking deck, they said, was the “glue” that held a much bigger project “together,” one that would benefit Fayetteville in the long run.
Follow up posts on this site challenged the “public purpose” and constitutionality of the garage contract. In another, I pointed out the hypocrisy of Fayetteville building a parking deck to service private development while refusing to repair washed-out dams on private land. But city leaders kept plowing forward, blinders on, full-steam ahead.
At a certain point, you start to feel like a voice in the wilderness. Like-minded members of the community and I have been called “conspiracy theorists.” Some people ask why we don’t sit back and let the project happen. We would be “right” or “wrong” depending on how it shakes.
I have one response: I care about this community, and I believe our elected leaders should be stewards of our resources and act in the best interest of the public, not wealthy investors. They can only do so by reading the fine print of contracts they enter into on our behalf. Last night’s city council meeting was the first time I felt that my elected leaders shared that sentiment with regard to this project.
Here’s the Fayetteville Observer’s take on the meeting for some background: City agrees to negotiate request for 15 million more in parking.
Here’s what really happened:
“Project Homerun” was sold as a package deal. Every glossy photo and video put out by the city had pictures of the parking deck and the stadium together. The city website calls it an “economic homerun” for Fayetteville.
As a result of these marketing efforts over the past few years, most citizens believed (and many still do) that the deck would be used to service the stadium next to it. It won’t. Here’s the fine print from the City’s contract with PCH:
This past week, the Fayetteville Observer once again printed the fact that the parking deck will not be used for games. Opening day is drawing closer, and people are starting to pay attention. The details of the deal are starting to affect them personally.
Read any of the comments to the articles surrounding the parking deck on the Fayetteville Observer’s website or Facebook page. They aren’t positive. Several facts that I have been screaming from the rooftops for over a year are finally sinking in the public consciousness, and the public isn’t happy. Our leaders are starting to listen.
More Money, More Problems
Last night, PCH proposed a few “amendments” to the contract. In short, they wanted:
- 50 more spaces at $1.66 a day, for a total of 415 out of the deck’s 507 spaces; and
- 1.5 million more from the city (2.1 million w/interest costs).
PCH can’t get the additional funds from private sources. According to PCH, and in spite of the 40 million dollar stadium we’re building next to their development, downtown Fayetteville’s not an attractive business opportunity to private investors:
“The challenge we have here, today, is the returns we’re going to get (for our investors), from leasing office space and selling room nights in a hotel, are significantly below the rates you’re able to get in a Raleigh, and a Durham and a Charlotte.”
“We’ve talked to opportunity funds about investing….Fayetteville simply is not on their radar”
“The returns these two buildings are going to generate for our equity investors are still lower than they would in Charlotte or Durham.”Jordan Jones (PCH) 4/1/19
Doesn’t that make you feel good about your hometown? Our “business partners” are now blaming us for their inability to honor a contract price. They need us to pitch in more, and their “leverage” is a veiled threat that they won’t be able to finish the project if they don’t get the extra cash:
Jones said without the city’s help in paying for cost overruns for the garage his company was not “100 percent” certain it can secure the financing to finish the office and Hyatt Place hotel projects.Fay. Observer 4/2/19
In short, if you want a hotel and office building on your tax books, you’ve got to pony up more dough.
Councilman Larry Wright was not fond of being “leveraged”:
“It’s almost like you’ve got us over the barrel and it’s something we’ve got to do.”Larry Wright 4/1/19
Mayor Colvin continued to grill PCH on the financing, and others asked tough questions. Councilwoman Jensen said that this was a “new contract” as far as she was concerned and she wanted concessions before she would agree to pay more public money. Some finally compared the rate the public is being charged to PCH’s discount parking. I think I even heard one member say how mad he was that the public couldn’t use the deck for baseball games. In sum, we finally started to see Fayetteville’s representatives stand up for Fayetteville.
But then Doug Hewett started “explaining” the deal, and the decision was put off to a later date. We would go back to the negotiating table. You could see the council members start to cave.
The sad truth is they will cave completely because they made a policy decision several years ago to turn the taxpayers of the City of Fayetteville into a bank, and all a bank cares about is getting return on its investment, or, in this case, cutting its losses.
Welcome to the new Fayetteville.
Park down the street, sir. That’ll be 10 dollars.