Still Holding Hands…

In what is becoming an early-Spring tradition here in Fayetteville, City Manager Doug Hewett went on local radio this morning and defended the parking deck project downtown.

It’s making me a bit nostalgic…

I first published my concerns about the project in April of 2018. It must have struck a nerve, because Hewett immediately went on the radio and criticized my take. Since then, the contract’s been amended multiple times, costs have increased by millions of (tax) dollars, and the completion date continues to be pushed back.

This morning, Hewett assured listeners that the deck would be completed “soon,” and that the “big crane” would be returning in April to begin construction on top of the deck. Everyone loves a big crane. Hewett was hopeful that a few floors of the deck would open to allow Woodpeckers employees and Prince Charles residents a place to park.

Notice that the deck will be paid for with public funds (17+ Million). Also notice that the public won’t be parking in the deck when it opens.

But that’s O.K., Fayetteville, because after all this time, we’re still in love.

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Love is Patient

The deck was supposed to be finished a year ago. Hewett said the City is still deciding whether it will enforce the $1000/day penalty provisions of our contract with the developers:

Hewett’s not being truthful here. He knows his office won’t push for enforcement. The city has not enforced a single term of this contract in the past. Why would it start now? Instead, the City Council and Mayor will be asked for patience and understanding, and they’ll give it.

Love is Kind

And why would we make our development partners pay us money, especially days after we were ready to pay them nearly $200,000 in interest income?

Just Because” 😉

The council postponed the vote on the Assistant City Manager’s “interest income” proposal last week, waiting until after Valentines Day to give away your interest earnings to their development partner.

But look at the irony in that. We should be charging these developers over 300k in late fees ($1,000/day from March 15, 2019 to present). Instead, Doug Hewett’s office wants the council to pay them $186,095, for no reason at all. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Hewett also explained in the interview this morning that the parking deck is being built by “Hay Street Development Pad” (LLC), and not “Prince Charles Holdings” LLC. Hewett said many of the investors are the same, but technically, it’s two different companies.

Remember, we just have to take Hewett’s word for it on this. The public doesn’t get to know the identity of our development partners. It’s not a public record.

So while City Hall and these investors continue their tango into 2020, they’re asking the public to love a ghost.

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And by “love,” I mean they’re asking the public to throw millions of tax dollars at a ghost.

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If you look hard enough, you can almost see your money floating away…

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I have to make a (bad) joke about it because it’s such an inherently awful way to conduct city government. We should not be receiving assurances on the radio from an un-elected city employee about a public-private development deal with secret investors.

It’s way past time to shine some sunlight on this romance. Local media won’t dig into it, and it’s clear you’re not going to get a straight answer from City Hall.

It’s up to us.

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Thanks for reading.

Double Standards Reveal Cracks in Downtown Policy

Back in November, I wrote a post about Prince Charles Holdings’ request for more money for the parking deck that they are still building in downtown Fayetteville. I predicted the Fayetteville City Council and the Mayor would fund the company’s request. They did. I ended the post this way:

When they ask for more money in a few months, I’ll change some numbers around and re-post this article.

Well, Prince Charles Holdings has asked for more money. This is about the fifth time they’ve done so. It’s not as much a fulfilled prediction as it is clock-work at this point.

But the details of tonight’s City Council Agenda and exactly how they are going about the latest increase has me riled up. So you get about the 15th parking-deck-post on this site. My apologies in advance…

Investment Income

Apparently, the City of Fayetteville earns interest on the millions of dollars in bond money we borrowed to finance the baseball stadium and purchase the parking deck downtown.

All of the money we borrowed hasn’t been spent, yet, in part because Prince Charles Holdings can’t seem to finish the deck on schedule. It was supposed to be finished in October, and we don’t have to pay for it until it is finished, so the millions we borrowed to pay for it are presumably sitting in an account somewhere, earning interest. Apparently, we’re earning a lot of interest: $189,063 to this date, according to the city’s numbers.

“Great!,” you might think to yourself. “The city’s at least getting some money back. We can use that to offset the cost of the project and save the taxpayers some money!”


…then the powerful forces of the Fayetteville bureaucracy go to work, and suddenly it’s not so great anymore.

Instead of giving this investment income back to the taxpayers or using it to lower the principal on the debt the taxpayers owe, our City Council and city managers want to give all of it to Prince Charles Holdings. They will vote to do so, tonight.

Are you even surprised anymore? Yeah, me neither.

Keep in mind that the initial cost for this deck was 7 Million Dollars. It’s now pushing 18 Million. 2.9 Million is being transferred out of the general fund to cover the overage. This means that other city services will have to be cut if we don’t raise taxes.

Segra Stadium Standards

Perhaps we could have used some of that $186,095 to offset the cost of our new baseball stadium which is also over-budget? But that’s too easy and too obvious.

Today, the Observer published an article stating that our new stadium already has cracks and water leaks. Fayetteville has hired an engineer to analyze and document the defects. This is a good thing. It’s smart government. Why? Fayetteville is battling with the contractor, Barton Malow, over the total cost of the project. Fayetteville can now use these structural defects as leverage to negotiate the final cost of the project and save the taxpayers money.

This is responsible city management. This is how it’s supposed to work.

So why the double-standard?

Despite the fact that our leaders sold the parking deck and the stadium as a package deal, they now refuse to treat these projects the same way even though it is in the city’s interest to do so. It’s baffling, really.

I don’t know who invested in Prince Charles Holdings. It’s not public record by the way, and the city won’t tell us. I do know that they are very powerful behind the curtain.

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Do you know of any other entity that is treated this way by the City of Fayetteville? City management goes out of its way to enrich these people. Our elected leaders gladly vote “yes” to repeated cost increases and waive penalties for missing construction deadlines.

Several months ago, Mayor Colvin had an apt analogy when Prince Charles Holdings asked for more money for the deck:

I actually agree with him. Any bank would keep the interest that it makes on its own money for itself.

We’ll just give it away.

Mayor Colvin’s Olde-Fashioned Politics

The Fayetteville City Council has invested millions of your tax dollars in order to encourage and stimulate economic growth downtown. Mayor Mitch Colvin recently made the personal decision to capitalize on that growth and purchased a commercial building downtown. But, Colvin’s building lies in an area the Fayetteville City Council designated as a “Historic District,” and our good Mayor was recently introduced to the red-tape of Fayetteville’s “Historic” bureaucracy that has long been the hindrance of many a good Cross Creek businessman.

You see, a few decades ago, the City of Fayetteville made a policy decision to preserve the “historical integrity” of several areas, including downtown.

“Design Guidelines” keep each structure looking the way it did when it was first built. You could say we want these areas to look “olde” and true to their original architectural style, including my personal favorite, “Richardsonian Romanesque.”

These guidelines are still in place, and if you want to upgrade a building in the historic district, you have to follow certain rules.

First and foremost, you have to submit an application for a “Certificate of Appropriateness” from the Historic Resources Commission before you do any work to your building. It’s a very simple form. I found it online in a few minutes:

Mayor Colvin submitted multiple COA applications, but his contractor made changes to the structure that were not included on the applications and were not pre-approved by the Historic Resources Commission, setting up a great deal of drama.

Battle with Commissioner

Bruce Arnold is a member of the commission. Arnold, along with his wife, own multiple downtown businesses. Arnold attempted to bring attention to the unapproved changes to Colvin’s building a few months ago. This caused a bit of a media stir, with Arnold even claiming that Colvin threatened to sue him over his allegations.

The exterior work on Colvin’s building is now completed. Of much concern to members of the Historic Resources Commission, Arnold in particular, were the paint on the building and the installation of glass and aluminum doors.

“Historic” Aluminum and Glass Doors

Colvin asked the Historic Resources Commission for permission to “amend” his prior applications to include all of the changes that were made the building. He argued that old photographs show the doors were once aluminum and the building was once painted, so Colvin gets to do the same in 2020.

Despite his photographic evidence, Colvin was apparently worried about the vote. He had his attorney, Jose Coker, of the Charleston Law Firm, try to keep Bruce Arnold and the commission’s chairwoman, Liz Varnedoe, from voting because of “prior statements” each had made about the changes. In short, Colvin claimed they were “biased” against him and couldn’t be impartial.

They voted anyways. Colvin won, 6-1. Arnold was the only dissenting vote.

Colvin Can’t Take a Win

Apparently, winning 6-1 wasn’t good enough for Colvin. So the very next day, he decided to trash Arnold on Facebook:

As of today’s date, Colvin’s post drew over 271 comments. Most of them are in support of Colvin, and many imply that Colvin is being singled out because he’s black. It’s not hard to see why. Colvin capitalized two words in his post: “RUDE” and “WHITE.” He also included the hash-tag “doublestandards.”

One Man’s Opinion

Colvin admittedly made changes to a historic building without prior approval. He then asked for special treatment from the commission. He got it. He won 6-1. But it wasn’t perfect enough for him, so he’s got to trash the dissenting voter, call out his businesses, and imply that race is involved.

And we wonder why Fayetteville is so divided?

Colvin’s complaints are old and tired and do nothing to bring us together as a town. I realize we are in the time of the “untouchable” executive, but a Mayor, like a President, should follow the same rules as everyone else and shouldn’t attack those who seek to hold him accountable to those rules.

If you don’t like the rules, you have more power than anyone to change them. Give that a try instead of attacking your constituents on social media.

Thanks for reading.