Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pay to Play Politics: Wilmington City Council Offers to Take Tax Bribe from Developer in Exchange for Special Zoning Consideration

City Council and developer use satellite annexation to circumvent county zoning policy

Do you have a piece of property outside of the city limits and the county is refusing to meet your zoning demands? No worries. The Wilmington City Council is apparently for sale, happy to help you circumvent the New Hanover County Commissioners and grant your special zoning request, for a price.

The current example is a 27 acre parcel 2.5 miles from the borders of the city. Flournoy Development Company, a property developer out of Columbus GA, is planning to build luxury apartments off of Market Street in the northern part of the county. When the county denied Flournoy’s rezoning request, Flournoy turned to the city for help.

Wilmington City Council seemed eager to grant Flournoys annexation and rezoning request in exchange for the property tax dollars it will put in their coffers. According to news reports, Flournoy admitted circumventing the county zoning policy, through annexation by the city, would give the project a better chance. Another benefit to the developer is that the Wilmington city council would have no obligation to the local county residents that oppose the rezoning.

To cover their "pay to play" scheme, city staff, in conjunction with Flournoy spokespeople, have begun a campaign to convince an unknowing public and press that the annexation offered by the city would give the developer and residents services not currently offered in that part of the county. The dirty little secret is that nothing could be further from the truth.

Services and utilities are already in place and have been available for years. Fire, police, water, sewer are all there. Being annexed by the city provides Flournoy with no benefit other than rezoning, which would allow the developer to drastically increase its profits by building 290 units, versus the 250 allowed by the county.
If the track is annexed it would be very profitable for the city council as well, adding nearly 300 units to their tax rolls with little upfront cost.

County Commissioner Jason Thompson agrees. In a telephone interview he stated that the move by the city was nothing more than an attempt by the city to usurp the counties zoning authority for the developer in exchange for the ability to tax future property owners in the development.

A visit to Flournoy’s company website finds they make a commitment of integrity and accountability to their employees and vendors. They make no such commitment to the communities in which they are building.

Bottom line is that this is wrong and the city should withdraw its offer now. It is a Quid pro quo between the Wilmington City Council and Flournoy Development with the sole purpose of usurping the county’s zoning authority and taking away the voice of county residents. Hopefully our state legislators are watching.

WWAY Story
Star News Article
Flournoy Website
This post in the news

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