High court won't hear appeal on jail

The N.C. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by Concord residents trying to stop plans for a controversial downtown jail, effectively ending several years of efforts to derail the project.

Local officials expressed relief Friday that the case was finally over, while residents fighting the jail said they were not surprised by the outcome. They had opposed the size of the project and the proximity to their nearby historic neighborhoods.

Cabarrus County hopes to start construction on the 480-bed jail in September, Deputy County Manager Mike Downs said. He said the estimated $60 million project will take about 22 months to complete.

It will be built behind the new sheriff's headquarters on Corban Avenue, and the buildings would replace the current 142-bed jail as well as leave room for expansion. A 96-bed jail annex already opened this year to help with jail housing needs.

Downs said the county was excited there has been a resolution to the case and that the project can move forward.

Residents of Concord's historic district had sued the city in 2006. They challenged a permit the city had issued to build the jail, claiming that Concord ignored rules that would require the jail to conform with the surrounding neighborhood.

In January, the N.C. Court of Appeals panel rejected the residents' suit. One of those residents, Alex Porter, said there's nothing else to do as far as the case goes.

“I'm disappointed, of course,” Porter said. “We knew our chances of succeeding (with the suit) were low, but our chances were zero if we hadn't filed.”

Another jail opponent, Deborah Arbers, said she and others now will monitor the progress of the jail and see if decisions made about it make economic sense.

Concord Mayor Scott Padgett called the move by the high court, which the city learned about late Thursday, “a relief.”

“It's been a long ordeal for both sides,” he said. “There's some healing that needs to be done.”