Pittenger recused self on road bills

Robert Pittenger has invested in more property along Garden Parkway routes than N.C. State Sen. David Hoyle, but Pittenger recused himself from two related votes because he said he was aware of a potential conflict.

Pittenger, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor and former state senator, has a stake in roughly 2,000 acres near four proposed exits.

Pittenger began investing in his current Gaston holdings in 2002, according to property records. He bought most of his Gaston land from 2004 to 2007, when the parkway was gaining momentum in the legislature.

Pittenger, who was elected to the senate in 2002, said he didn't use his position in the General Assembly to get insight on whether the parkway would be built.

“I don't sit on any transportation committees, and I've been in the minority party,” Pittenger said. “Anyone has the right to buy land.”

He also said the Gaston purchases weren't unusual. He has been investing in real estate since 1990, and his company owns more than 30 large parcels throughout the Charlotte region, as well as real estate in Nashville, Tenn., and Charleston.

Said Pittenger: “If I had gone to buy a piece of property and that was a unique thing, you could scratch your head.”

As the parkway was moving forward, and likely to be a toll road, Pittenger said he realized there was a potential conflict of interest.

A Pittenger election spokesman pointed to two turnpike bills that Pittenger recused himself from voting on, and noted he had voted against some larger budget bills that included turnpike authority funding.

Pittenger did vote in 2006 on a bill that authorized the N.C. Turnpike Authority to build the Garden Parkway, but Pittenger said he felt that bill wasn't significant because it didn't fund the expressway.

Pittinger resigned from the Senate to focus on the lieutenant governor race before the General Assembly voted this year on a budget bill that funded the parkway.

The Robert Pittenger Company owns undeveloped land in light industrial areas near Interstate 85 and U.S. 321, near proposed parkway exits. The company also owns a large tract in Belmont, along the South Fork of the Catawba River, and 220 acres along Union New Hope Road, near property owned by Hoyle's 4-Star Investors.

The Robert Pittenger Co. bought the Union New Hope Road land for $15,000 an acre in 2004, according to property records. The company Web site says the land is for sale at $30,000 an acre. Maps on the site show the land's proximity – a little farther than 1 mile – from the planned route for the parkway.

Pittenger said his stake in the Gaston land is “very, very small.” Three family members are also investors. Pittenger said their shares are “infinitesimal.”

Pittenger has been a critic of what he calls waste in state government. He paid for television ads last fall to defeat the half-cent sales tax for mass transit, arguing the money should be spent on roads instead.

Hoyle also has a 1 percent stake in one of Pittenger's Belmont properties, according to his statement of economic interest form he filed with the N.C. State Ethics Commission.

State Rep. William Current, a Gaston Republican, also invested in some of Pittenger's Gastonia land. But he recently sold the interests to his son.

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