Over in the county seat, Gastonia citizens are experiencing yet another turn from the litigious-minded city manager, Jim “Big Plan” Palenick.
Why not force a business to GIVE their land to the city through the eminent domain process granted to public entities? The issue is the bank building and land within “Big Plan” Palenick’s downtown renovation. The city wants the land for the “public good”, the bank wants fair market value for the property. The city says the fair market is only UP TO $600,000, the bank disagrees. Three members of city council have sided with the government – well, that’s all it takes – now it appears the citizens of Gastonia will be headed for court.
What a great use of taxpayer money! Something continues to stink in Gas-town.
Both the papers are now reporting that a 1,500 bed federal detention center most likely will not be built in Gaston County.
We kinda wonder why our county officials had to travel to Washington “for discussions” about this project? Wouldn’t have been a bit cheaper for Sue Myrick and former Mecklenburg Sheriff, Jim Pendergraff to have visited Gaston?
The Gazette, ever hopeful for downtown revitalization, expressed an interest for an “ala carte” project that would be less expensive.
Seems to us that the project tab of $150 million fits into “Big Plan” Palenick’s vision for Gaston — right along with the laundry list of a “conference center/hotel”, restaurants, a hidden homeless shelter, and an $18 million baseball field.
This is leaving us wondering what sort of earmarks that Ms. Myrick is planning to dangle for us as her re-election campaign gears up. Our schools who qualify for Title I funding are shrinking even when the number of poor students grows. The estimated $1.6 Billion (yes, billion) “Garden Parkway” is still an apple of David Hoyle’s eye, but without federal funding and passage of a Toll Authority from the state, that will be out of his lifetime. Maybe he and Ms. Myrick could talk – surely there is still a bit of money at the bottom of the pork barrel for good ‘ol Gaston.
“Big Plan” Palenick had his vision and confirmation of at least 3 more years of job security voted in by the Gastonia City Council last night, 5-1. Even tenacious city-cheerleader/mayor Jennie raised her hand in the vote. We wondered about that, was she worried about a tie?
In the so-called Downtown Revitalization plan, the former First Union building will be torn down to build a parking deck. That surely must be a good first step. Can’t find parking for the Thursday night summer events at the Rotary Pavilion and on the 4th of July, so it must be able to alleviate that mess. It is certainly very close to the other “Gastonia” destination hot-spots of the DS Botanical Gardens (11.51 miles), the Schiele (2 miles, ok 1.98 miles), and the always jumping Franklin Square 1 (4.51 miles).
It is really doubtful that the other voting members of the Gastonia City Council get it. Business markets develop over time. Government interventions to jump-start private investment have very mixed results. One key is the local community support through pride of the the financial committment, and “boots on the ground”. Many of the downtown property owners know that, have waited for the “free” money (i.e. your taxpayer $$) to flow their way and ultimately allow them to cash out.
We have no problem with property owners wanting to get the best deal for themselves, or for a community to “profit” by investment in the downtown areas. But when a plan “elbows” its way into the process, with little discussion and the spectre of class warfare below the surface, it becomes a fairness discussion.
Moving the Salvation Army Shelter and administrative functions out of downtown, to “…hide your brothers and sisters…”, as Captain Stan Colbert has commented, is one way to rid the appearance of blight and depression. Ok, so 5 million privately contributed dollars later, the shelter is moved across the tracks and the homeless cross the Marietta Street bridge and hang out in front of the new downtown Microtel Inn and Convention Center?
It is just a shame that this proposal also chooses to ignore the already committed investments that the city has made to renovate the Webb Theater and the private investment plans that are slowly turning.
A downtown investment is not a quick fix. Mr. Kirlin knows that. The city of Belmont knows that as well. Our downtown “beautification” is certainly taking on a life of its own, but remember, it was a decade ago and commitments by PRIVATE property owners to work together to make it all happen. The city just dealt with the streetscape and made an investment into the park area. The Belmont downtown development group (underwritten by Stowe Mills), and the revitalized downtown merchants association (re-formed when the chamber was struggling with membership), worked very hard to work on a mix of business types to hopefully balance a purpose to visit the downtown area.
That result is an apparently vibrant downtown at 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 8:00 PM. Of course, that commitment also cost a visionary mayor his elected seat, and brought several more years of obstructionist cronyism before we could seriously address the need for nurturing our community soul.
Gastonia has to suffer the throes of similar tribulation – it will all work out in the end, that of which, we are hopeful.
To comment on the event last night itself:
The Belmont Front Porch’s intrepid editors, taking pages from the political science playbooks, stationed people at the council meeting and watched the drivel unfold on television last night. The exit polls by the “watchers” definitely indicate an uprising brewing among the Gastonia electorate. As far as television is concerned, it would seem that both city council members and staff should learn to dress for the low-tech cameras that are trained on their every utterance of “uh”, “yeah”, “okay”, and our collective favorite, “um”.
Gaston College offers public speaking classes, Toastmasters International has at least two area chapters, and there are a host of community consultants that for a fee could help these elected public officials and hired staff stand before a mic and camera. Please invest your training dollars wisely if you hire or elect mumble-mouths.
Gastonia’s super-secret-deal $16,000 contract consultant backs off his own report. Could it be that Atlantic Hospitality Advisors are worried about the possible business connection back to “Big Plan” Palenick?
We have to give a lot of credit to councilman Kirlin for wanting to explore this issue in more detail.
Tonight’s Gastonia City Council meeting will be televised (Gaston County Access Channel 16 on the TW cable). We hope Mr. Palenick wears some makeup.
The consultant’s fees for this market study don’t appear to be too well-earned. Most of the data looks to be lifted from several earlier studies of the Gaston County area and accessible data from both the Economic Development Commission and the Census Bureau. So, taxpayers footed the bill to tell the Gastonia City Council what they already knew?
You can read some of the fiction yourselves right here:
The report is a 2mb file and might take a bit to download. Pretty hefty you must admit for $16,000.
Mr. Palenick’s “revised” plan that will be discussed at tonight’s meeting:
At this morning’s First Friday Focus, a Gaston Regional Chamber, regular event, “Big Plan” Palenick, Gastonia’s city manager/chief litigator, presented HIS big plan for Gastonia.
Speaking before a good sized crowd of chamber members and interested others, “BP” noted that many downtown business owners supported the plan “enthusiastically”.
We already know that the city council has swallowed the kool-aid in its desperate attempt to revive a city that lost its relevance when I-85 was completed, and then again when Wal-Mart took over at both ends of town.
It now appears that the libertarian mouthpiece, the Gaston Gazette, is certainly looking more favorably on these plans as well. Their tone and style of writing is disappointing considering their distain for the TIF laws as passed in 2004.
Good luck Gastonia.
Really, we mean it…
Good article by Daniel Jackson of the Gaston Gazette about “Big Plan” Palenick.
However, he needs to look a bit deeper into the negatives that aren’t discussed too much in this article.
According to sources in Bay City, Michigan and Rio Rancho, New Mexico, “Big Plan” has a litigious streak — for his personal gain. Some folks in Bay City are willing to talk about it, but the Rio Rancho folks are much more tight lipped.
Again, overall good reporting by Jackson. It has been awhile since the Gazette has had a real “juicy” story that could sell papers.