Politics & Government

McCrory vetoes plan to buy option on store

Mayor Pat McCrory blocked the City Council's efforts Monday to buy an option on a small grocery store in the Belmont neighborhood.

The council had hoped to improve the community by purchasing the store at Parkwood Avenue and Pegram Street for about $472,000 and replacing it with new businesses.

The motion passed 7-3, but McCrory vetoed it, saying the money should not be spent in a neighborhood that already is attracting significant private investment. He pointed out that the city has spent millions on road improvements and a mixed-income community on nearby Seigle Avenue that is also subsidized with federal money.

“There is a certain point in time that we have to transfer funds to other neighborhoods that are hurting more,” McCrory said.

The move was a scaled-down version of a plan that once called for the city to squelch crime by spending $1.1 million for a number of corner stores in the neighborhood. McCrory vetoed that plan last year.

Police have said that the stores in the community near downtown contribute to loitering, drug sales and other problems.

But in recent years, real estate investors attracted by the neighborhood's bungalows and location have renovated the older homes, pushing property values up. The per-square-foot sale value of homes there increased by 122 percent between July 2005 and December 2007, according to a city study. In a 2008 study of neighborhood quality, the city classified Belmont as “stable,” the highest category.

The project's supporters on the council were Republicans Edwin Peacock and John Lassiter, and Democrats James Mitchell, Susan Burgess, Nancy Carter, Anthony Foxx and Michael Barnes. Lassiter said the project was an opportunity to put in a business that “becomes part of what you want in that neighborhood long-term.”

Foxx said the project would help offer a better quality of life for residents.

“I know what it means to walk past convenience stores and lots of businesses of disrepute,” he said. “There's some dignity in creating a better environment.”

Democrat Warren Turner and Republicans Andy Dulin and Warren Cooksey opposed the move. Dulin said he thought the price of the land was too high. Turner worried about setting a precedent.

“We could do this in every corridor and every corner in our city,” he said. “Where do you close the door?”

In other business, the council authorized city staff to pursue a plan for First Ward that includes $26.1 million in public money. The city's contribution, given through tax breaks, would help build a parking lot. UNC Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and a private developer are all participants in the project, which would bring a park and small college campus to downtown.

The council delayed a decision on altering rules for mobile food vendors. The council's public safety committee will continue discussing the matter.