Commissioners agree to land deal

A majority of Mecklenburg County commissioners agreed Tuesday to spend $19 million to buy land for a Third Ward park, ending one partisan fight tied to a plan to help bring a minor-league baseball stadium to uptown.

Republican Dan Ramirez broke from others in his party to join the board's four Democrats in agreeing to the purchase.

But about an hour later, Republicans and Democrats were at odds again, this time over whether the county should delay an upcoming reassessment of property values. That proposal died because the board was evenly split.

Commissioners have been in a stalemate on both issues in recent weeks.

The board had tried to buy the park land two weeks ago, but Republicans did not agree to the purchase. Ramirez said at the time he wanted a chance to review the baseball stadium and related projects in light of the worsening economy.

Now, Ramirez said he's convinced buying the land for the park will help “continue with the economic development of this county.”

The county is purchasing the land from developers who want to build a mixed-use development on what is now public land in Second Ward. The deal is part of a complicated land plan that also would free up space for the Charlotte Knights to build a baseball stadium on county land also in Third Ward.

Some Democratic commissioners stressed the land vote was unrelated to baseball. But by agreeing to the purchase, the commissioners have removed one of the last obstacles to letting the Knights start construction of the project. The Knights still must close on financing on the project, which has yet to happen.

In other business, Republican commissioners tried unsuccessfully to get the county's upcoming revaluation delayed until 2010. They argued that it would be irresponsible to do so because the housing market is unstable.

But county administrators and Democratic commissioners said the process will help fix inequities across the county where some homeowners are paying less in taxes than the market would dictate, while others are paying more.

The board will take up the issue again at a future meeting. The vote came while commissioners were asked to set a public hearing on one process related to the upcoming revaluation, the county's first since 2003.