The Parkside ShuffleBy
This, in a nutshell, is what yesterday’s city council work session was all about:
Developer: Condos may block City Hall
ASHEVILLE (Joel Burgess) â€“ Developer Stewart Coleman told City Council members Tuesday he would move his controversial condominium complex closer to City Hall should he be denied permission for a road on public parkland.
Without the road, Coleman said he would have to use Marjorie Street to the south for fire truck access and move his building toward the northern edge of his property line, blocking some views of the 1928 Art Deco City Hall.
So Stewart Coleman went before city council and told them that one of their legal avenues for stopping this project would only make things worse. What else is new? From the very beginning, Coleman has been playing chicken with the council and the commission. You’re going to vote against my project? Fine. I’ll remove the parking decks from the square footage, and then I’ll only have to face the TRC. (Work yourself into a lather. Rinse. Repeat.)
For myself, I view Coleman as a neutral actor here. He owns the land, he wants to build somewhere in the vicinity of Pack Square, and he’s prepared to use every ounce of leverage he has to make a profit. If you’d plunked down over a million dollars for an unappetizing slice of history like the Hayes-Hopson building, you’d do the same. Really. You would.
The problem is that, in contrast to Coleman’s no-holds-barred pursuit of his private interest, our local elected officials seem a little – well – shy about defending the public interest with the same tenacity. Check out what happened in the rest of the session:
Council members were not scheduled to vote on the issue but went into closed session for more than 30 minutes. The private session was intended to allow discussions of a lawsuit that descendants of parkland donor George Pack have brought against the county for selling the land to Coleman and a possible deal involving land to the south of Parkside.
When they returned, Mayor Terry Bellamy reiterated the cityâ€™s position that the county should reacquire the parkland. She added that the city was still open to other ways to stop or alter the project, including letting Coleman build on other city land.
Coleman said Monday that he has spent millions of dollars so far on the project and any deal could prove expensive. He hopes to begin demolition in November.
So, to recap: Stewart Coleman comes to council, and says “Let me pave over more of Pack Square. If you don’t, I’ll ruin the park even more, though I know it’s hard to believe that’s even possible.”
Then council says: “Hey, don’t look at us. We passed a resolution insisting that the county pay you off. But of course, if that doesn’t work, we’ll pay you off instead.”
Coleman (on Monday): “Well, they better bring the money. They have until November.”