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Disillusioned by Council Politics

I would like to register some displeasure about two recent decisions by the city council to, in essence, ignore two very good suggestions on the part of council member Calvin Mercer. letter to the editor

The first was a vote against his request to reduce and re-appropriate funds for a so-called “river study.” Council will spend $200,000 on a river study but there has not been much if anything said publicly about contents of such a study, and  what its anticipated results might be. I cannot envision what scope of work would cost a consultant $200,000 to do with regard to studying the river.  I guess the objective of the study is to determine how Greenville can better utilize its Tar River frontage for economic development or community enhancement purposes.  That is a good purpose, but does it really take $200 K? I would guess the city will get 2 or 3 really good recommendations out of such a study and find that it doesn’t have the money to implement the study’s recommendations, or that such projects are no higher in priority than the long list of things the city already wants to do with future capital revenues.  Mercer’s suggestion that some of the money be used for real improvements to the Town Common, to save some of the money to reduce borrowing this year, and to perhaps fund a $50,000 study was very prudent, and I’m saddened that the rest of the council didn’t support it. It seems to me the rest of the council except for Marion Blackburn is intent on “digging their heels in” and opposing anything that Mercer suggests, even if it makes good sense.

The second disturbing item was Council’s rejection of Mercer’s suggestion that Greenville pursue an official status as a senior-friendly retirement community.  Our Greenville council talks a lot about economic development–and here Mercer suggested pursuing an economic development strategy that makes great sense and could have some real economic development benefits. But yet again, it was Mercer’s idea so it got canned by the rest of council (again, Blackburn excluded).  I am disillusioned with the council because it (collectively) won’t even seriously consider good ideas just because they come from a council member that is not a part of the current majority voting block. I fear that politics (imagine that!) is getting in the way of progress and sound fiscal policy.  I sure would like to see that changed soon.

Jerry Weitz, Ph.D., FAICP
Phone: 404-502-7228

President, Jerry Weitz & Associates, Inc.
Editor, Practicing Planner
Assoc. Prof. and Director, East Carolina Univ.

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Responses (27)

  1. Brenda Ernest says:

    Dr. Weitz has expresssed so well the disillusionment many thoughtful citizens are feeling these days. It is obvious that good sense does not prevail on the current Council, when we see this voting block of petty politicians ignoring public sentiment and even citizen input and outrage to pursue goals that are not supported by evidence. The vote on the river study and the rejection of the application for the retirement-friendly status are just the latest examples of this foolishness. I hope the damage can be undone after the upcoming election.

  2. Lisa Wilbourne says:

    I do think it’s important to note that the six cities (Asheboro, Lumberton, Marion, Mount Airy, Pittsboro, and Sanford) in the state with the Certified Retirement Community designation from the N.C. Department of Commerce are all much smaller than Greenville, with Pittsboro the smallest at fewer than 4,000 and Sanford the largest at almost 29,000. We should perhaps ask why other cities our size have not pursued this designation.

    • Ashley Breedlove says:

      I think many men and women that are seeking retirement are drawn to smaller cities for the close-knit feel. I can see why large cities like Charlotte and Raleigh may not be attractive prospects, but I believe Greenville is a different story. Our city has the close-knit, home-town feel while still providing the added bonus of a thriving Uptown. We have strong neighborhoods, beautiful greenways, as well as many amazing local restaurants and venues. The Baby Boomer generation is going to be drawn to all of these things naturally – gaining official status as a retirement community will just add to the influx of retirees.

  3. Dennis Mitchell says:

    It is to be noted that the city did not reject the application for a retirement friendly certification it was tabled because staff had not researched it or its cost. The application process happens every six months so it can be easily applied for in the future. I have researched it and it calls for a $43,000 application fee and an undetermined amount of money for a market the program as well as other “fine print” information, which is why it was right to allow staff to due diligence to find out the full ramifications of such a program. Lisa commented to the 6 cities that have sought this designation and it should also be pointed out that out of the top ten cities with the highest retirement populations in our state only ONE of them are a certified retirement community. The data shows that retirees are looking to move to metropolitan areas with a varieties of amenities, cultural outlets and jobs (because most are working after retirement).

    It is so easy to try to say that a voting block on the council is not listening to the public instead of looking at the facts that our staff has not vetted the certification and the fact that somehow paying the state $43,000 and paying for a marketing plan just to have our city listed on the Department of Commerce website (like retirees flock to the Department of Commerce website to choose where to live) is going to have retirees flock to Greenville to live. Why don’t we start with what retirees may be looking for in a city, make sure we have it and then get the certification?

    • Cindy Reed says:

      Mr. Mitchell

      I see you addressed the second issue Dr. Weitz had in the original letter, now could you address the reasoning for spending $200,000 for a consultant vs. putting the money toward improvements for the town common area.

      Thank you,
      Cindy Reed

      • Dennis Mitchell says:

        Of course I will Mrs. Reed and thank you for asking. When I proposed a River Study to asses how we could leverage this tremendous asset we have that goes throughout the heart of our city, it was meant to be a transformational project to have a huge impact on the future vision for our city. Our staff did the research of cities that have done similar studies and based the $200,000 price tag of what others have paid. It is important to note that our city manager has stated that until the request for proposals has been put out, there is no way to actually know how much it will cost, and if the cost did come back lower, funds could be used to implement the plan or be reverted back to the General Fund. So the qualified opinion of staff led to the $200,000 cost estimation. As far as putting money toward improvements at the Town Common, that suggestion was never mentioned during the entire planning process so when Council Member Mercer brought it up it was very strange. As he has reminded us the, the Town Common master plan was approved 3 years ago prior to me coming on the council, and anytime between now and then he could have brought it up in any budget planning cycle to begin funding that proposal, but for some reason he did not. The River Study and Town Common Master Plan are two very different projects. One is looking at about 9 miles of river front and the other is about 20 acres of space.

        So the changes brought up at after the public hearing on Thursday night was the first time they were proposed and to be realistic, spending $100,000 toward a $13 million plan may be enough to hire the architect but not to pay him/ her to do anything. I served on the redevelopment commission for 5 years and I know that the Town Common Master Plan is just a conceptual drawing and the steps to get towards actually doing something on Town Commons would cost more that $100,000. For starters, the current plan has the amphitheater in the flood plan so it would have to be changed, which means the entire design would probably have to change as well.

    • Ashley Breedlove says:

      If I recall correctly, Mr. Mercer’s motion regarding the retirement community was to have staff look into it and then, if staff reported back that it was worthwhile, to apply. Passing said motion would not have automatically required our city to pay an “undetermined amount of money.” Staff would have had the opportunity to look into it and, if they determined as such, advise the council against it or for it.

      Sure, the application process occurs every six months. But why wait? It’s time for our city to move forward.

  4. Dennis Mitchell says:

    With all due respect Ashley, that is incorrect. In order for the application to be turned in before the January 31 deadline this cycle, a committee would have to be formed immediately to meet the six month requirement to develop marketing plan, develop a plan to pay for the marketing and how data would be collected among other requirements. Clearly with the timeline, there is not any time for staff to do due diligence into it since the council does not meet in July. The motion called for allocation of funding which is why it was moved prior to the budget discussion. Again, I have extensively read the requirements of the program and there is more to the story beyond the talking points released in Council Member Mercer’s newsletter. While I agree it is time to move our city forward, waiting for the next cycle to allow for proper due diligence is our best option. Like I stated before, having a sticker saying we are a certified retirement community does not guarantee retirees will move to Greenville, especially when we only have one registered retirement housing development in our city (Cypress Glen).

    I would point to the creation of the Office of Economic Development which has lead to the direct creation of jobs and its capital investment grant that has just expanded our tax base as ways this council has proven its commitment to boldly move our city forward. It is important to remember that the suggestion of applying for the certification was listed as side item in respect to a much larger game plan to create jobs, growth and expand our tax base in the very in-depth economic development study we had completed.

  5. Brenda Ernest says:

    I am relieved to know that the idea of becoming retiree-friendly is not entirely dead. I think that retirees may be attracted to some of our uptown revitalization projects and given the proximity and cultural opportunites of a university town, they may see the residential value in our university neighborhood, if we can save it from the rental business.

    • Dennis Mitchell says:

      Uptown Greenville is beginning to flourish and soon the Tar River Community will be the most sought after neighborhood in our city due to its walkability and convenience of being close to all the amenities of downtown. Property values will multiply exponentially in the next few years and property investors will have no choice but either sell to single family home owners or rent to high earning professionals because students will not be able to afford the rent. No policy will be able to accomplish what a viable center city can do for the TRUNA area.

  6. Jerry Weitz says:

    Thank you for responding Mr. Mitchell. It appears at least you as one council member did consider Mercer’s proposals seriously.It doesn’t speak to the other three voting against. I may not have observed every minute of the conversations, but the two motions were voted down with no discussion, it seemed to me. It would have avoided the appearance that the proposals were simply ignored or summarily rejected without comment or discussion if the points you make now had been a part of the discussion and made a part of the record..

    On the river study, wouldn’t most if not all of the 9 miles of river to be studied also be in the flood plain; and if as you observe the proposed improvements on the town common (i.e., amphitheater) would have been in the flood plain, then isn’t it appropriate to ask how much of anything else transformational in nature as recommended by a new study would also be in the flood plain? And since much of the 9 miles of river frontage is residentially developed or not developable at all because of flood plain, why spend money to search for a transformational project in those locations?

    If “retirees” are still working, then they aren’t really retirees. Sometimes, ideas come up after council member study and they are not the most ideal time to consider them, but the concern is there, they are discovered, and so the time is ripe to raise them, even f the timing is bad.

  7. Anthony Noel says:

    I’m just glad to see someone from what I like to call council’s “Gang of Four” publicly admit he supports gentrifying ECU students – many of whom voted him in – right the hell off of Main Campus:

    “Uptown Greenville is beginning to flourish and soon the Tar River Community will be the most sought after neighborhood in our city due to its walkability and convenience of being close to all the amenities of downtown. Property values will multiply exponentially in the next few years and property investors will have no choice but either sell to single family home owners or rent to high earning professionals because students will not be able to afford the rent.”

    Never mind that his rationale is completely, utterly, hopelessly flawed from a business point of view. (After all, how will permitting MORE occupants in TRUNA buildings – per the nonsensical change to the “three unrelated” rule engineered by Mitchell’s gang – chase students AWAY??) What’s really disturbing here is Mitchell’s stated intent to make near-campus housing unaffordable for students.

  8. Dennis Mitchell says:

    The term gentrification cannot be used in relation to the student population living there. The TRUNA area by statute and design is designated as a strict single family neighborhood. However due to the economic decline and the bottoming out of the housing market, properties are not selling and investors have found opportunity in renting to students, which has helped thwart the total decline of the neighborhood (with some side effects) from becoming totally dilapidated. The fact is all communities within walking distance from vibrant downtowns have flourished due to the points mention above and are usually higher priced because of the demand to live in such a community. My comments were a response to Mrs. Ernest’s comments not a “stated intent to make near-campus housing unaffordable for students.” Ideally I believe it would be best for single family designated neighborhoods to be inhabited by single families but the market will determine that, not a council policy.

    • Jerry Weitz says:

      Since the discussion has shifted to the TRUNA neighborhood, an even greater subject of discontent in Greenville, I’ll offer some responses to Mr. Mitchell. I think we would all agree that the College View neighborhood should remain the most sought after neighborhood in our city due to its walkability and convenience of being close to all the amenities of downtown and the university. Beyond that, I’m having a little challenge following the logic and reasoning used.

      It is partially inaccurate to characterize the College View neighborhood as single-family by statute. It was at first designated by the city as multi-family, but then most of the neighborhood was rezoned some time ago for single-family use. That it is mostly but not entirely “single-family” zoned is correct, but through the liberal definition of “family” in the city’s zoning ordinance, “non-family” (i.e., unrelated) individuals have long been able to occupy homes in College View. This has made College View more of a collection of “non-family” households (especially unrelated students) than owner-occupied families, the latter of which have become increasingly and quickly outnumbered in recent years. When talking about city “policy” it is important to remember that the city’s adopted policy, via a neighborhood plan, is to retain and even increase single-family homeownership in the area. As we all know, the city has effectively changed that “policy” without ever amending it, by changing the zoning rules to allow up to four unrelated individuals to live in a house in the neighborhood if certain conditions are met. That change in zoning regulations cannot be interpreted as consistent with the city’s adopted policy of promoting home-ownership. The controversial zoning amendment encourages more rental by making it potentially more profitable for larger rental (unrelated) non-family households.

      I agree with you that the neighborhood has experienced some economic decline due in major part to the so-called bottoming out of the housing market. If you look at property value data for the neighborhood, there is a quantifiable decline in property value in recent years (see data on the Online Parcel Identification System or “OPIS”). The other reasons for decline are not as straight-forward. And the policy solutions are where there are major disagreements. Your contention Mr. Mitchell is that the neighborhood will become totally dilapidated unless “investors” come in and rent to students. Yet you also contend that market forces will take over and make the area unaffordable for students. Your logic seems to be as follows: investors will come in, make improvements, rent to students, values will increase exponentially as a result, then students eventually cannot afford to live there due to property value increases, and the “gentry” will come in – professionals and homeowners – who will buy properties and lead to fast “exponential” property value increases as you say. Or, are the investors alone the “gentry” in your view? I don’t see a huge market demand from high-earning professionals to come in and gentrify the entire neighborhood. If the market, rather than policy will decide the fate of the College View neighborhood, then why was it important to change the city’s zoning regulations (a real form of policy) in favor of higher occupancies and thus more rental units in the neighborhood? I strongly disagree with the theory that investors are going to come in and complete wholesale improvements in homes in the neighborhood which will exponentially increase home and property values. That might be true, if landlords and investors are really going to put their higher profits to work improving the housing stock and neighborhood, instead of absorbing the profits without making improvements other than what will minimally qualify the home to be occupied by four unrelated. I think the reason so many people opposed the increase in three-unrelated individuals living together in the neighborhood to four under certain conditions is that the average resident or person concerned does not have the same faith as you do that landlords/ investors are going to single-handedly save the neighborhood. They are mostly in control now, and look where the neighborhood is in terms of quality. There is every reason to believe the opposite could occur, if profit motives dictate and true investment is minimal. I feel certain in suggesting that the city’s 4-unrelated zoning amendment will not exponentially increase values in just a few years, as you contend.

      Other forces at work are important to the future of the College View neighborhood – battling crime, improving livability, addressing solid waste, drainage, parking, and code enforcement issues – those are things that are not solved by a free market and have everything to do with city policy. Neighborhood preservation is not as simple as it may appear; the market will help dictate what can happen, but the market will operate under a lot of influence from city policy and regulation.

      Jerry Weitz

  9. Anthony Noel says:

    Oh, I beg to differ Mr. Mitchell. The term gentrification is perfect for what you are proposing. You could look it up. But don’t bother, I’ve done so for you:

    Gentrification is a dynamic that emerges in poor urban areas when residential shifts, urban planning, and other phenomena affect the composition of a neighborhood.[1] Urban gentrification often involves population migration as poor residents of a neighborhood are displaced. In a community undergoing gentrification, the average income increases and average family size decreases. This generally results in the displacement of the poorer, pre-gentrification residents, who are unable to pay increased rents, and property taxes, or afford real estate.

    (The above is from Wikipedia.)

    You’re certainly entitled to your opinions and I’m glad you’re sharing them. You are not, however, entitled to your own set of facts.

  10. Dennis Mitchell says:

    The University Area does not classify as a poor area by census track data so therefore gentrification, in my belief, by your definition is not a correct term. Again, I did not propose anything and you are throwing a red herring into a discussion to try to make a point that is not a part of the conversation. Again, if your are truly trying to understand my opinion, I said that if downtown flourishes the University Neighborhood will become a sought after community for young professionals just like other communities who have flourishing downtowns. Not a proposal just historical fact based on what has happened in other cities. It will become more advantageous to flip a property and sell it than to rent it to students. At this time there is a down payment assistance program available for the area and there is still no rush to purchase homes in the area. If the properties were not being rented, then 87% of the homes will and would have been vacant for sometime now so yes, I believe the neighborhood would become dilapidated without homes being rented.

    For the record the 3 unrelated rule still stands but under certain conditions a property can apply for an exemption to allow 4 persons to live in the house. At this time only 4 properties have applied for this standard and many homes currently rented are unable to meet the conditions thus unable to apply. We have just passed a parking plan that should fix all parking issues, the city has enacted a plan to have trashed picked up on move out days which was very successful this year, parking enforcement will now also take place in the evenings and weekends, code enforcement has been restructured to allow for more code enforcement officers in the TRUNA area, storm water issues will be improved with the funding of major storm-water projects this year and our chief is working diligently to put together a plan to thwart crime in the area and throughout the city.

    All major issues have been issues for many years and it was this council that has addressed each and every one of them. If politics were set aside this fact could be widely known and celebrated.

    • Anthony Noel says:

      What you said is there for everyone to read, Mr. Mitchell. You said students will not be able to afford housing near campus and that will force them out. Just because you don’t like the word “gentrification” doesn’t mean it does not perfectly capture what you described, and continue to describe even in your latest comment, the ushering out of people with limited resources in favor of the gentry.

      You can try to backpedal and boost the “achievements” of this dysfunctional council all you like, but have you stopped to consider that the decline of TRUNA might have a lot more to do with the odor of piss and vomit wafting up from the bars that your little gang has continuously coddled in order to get their owners’ $upport?

  11. Dennis Mitchell says:

    I am more than willing to have a constructive debate on issues facing the city with any citizen however it appears that is not what Mr. Noel wants to do. Slinging unfounded allegations serves this city no purpose. The fact is I stated what will be the result of vibrant and active downtown to the TRUNA area– its return to prominence is what everyone wants. I did not use the word gentrification because it does not apply. The fact is the problems of the University neighborhoods predate my tenure on this city council for many, many years so I don’t understand how you can relate anything ancillary as a result you feel the bars have done to me. Has this council address the parking issue, trash issue and code enforcement issue when previous councils have not? Lets leave the rhetoric and name calling behind and have a constructive debate on the issues and actions that we have or have not been taken to address them. I have not backpedaled and I have just attempted to bring clarity to your claims which are incorrectly trying to paint the picture you wish, which are not reflective of my comments or actions.

    If you have specifics, I will be happy to address them but I will not engaged in the progressively slanderous comments you are making that are without merit.

    • Anthony Noel says:

      Mr. Mitchell, you can dodge and weave all you want, but whatever you wish call it, your prior comment is all too clear: “property investors will have no choice but either sell to single family home owners or rent to high earning professionals because students will not be able to afford the rent.” By ANY accepted definition, that is GENTRIFICATION.

      I find it hilarious how quickly members of the Gang of Four – and our mayor – move to marginalize any and all who actually DO attempt to engage them in constructive debate by citing these elected officials’ own words and actions. When thus confronted they cry foul and accuse those questioning them of “slander.”

      Sorry, Mr. Mitchell. No sale.

  12. Dennis Mitchell says:

    What are your suggestions Mr. Noel? Are you suggesting the University area remain in the current state and no development take place downtown? Anyone who truly knows me, knows that I am open minded and open to suggestions. I am in no gang and statistical the 90% of the council votes are unanimous. It seems that in this polarizing climate in our city, we are more interested rhetoric than really moving our city in the right direction. What is this council doing that has put this city in the wrong direction? Cut taxes? Promote Economic Development? Paved roads? Build Parks? Create economic development zones?

    • Jerry Weitz says:

      Cannot resist the bait. Here’s a short list (not all inclusive) of going in the wrong direction: The council has:

      1. Micro-managed staff so much that it has lost many if not most city management team leaders and department heads. This has increased city operating costs through personnel recruitments and resulted in the loss of valuable “institutional memory.”.

      2. Practiced and promoted incivility in overall city council relations.

      3. Neglected, ignored, and misconstrued its adopted plans.

      4. Served special interests more than neighborhood residents.

      5. Promoted certain projects as its own, and has tried to take credit for them, even though they have been in process for years and could not be at the stage they are today without the work of prior councils.

    • Anthony Noel says:

      Tempting as it is to address the many failings of this council (getting sued by TRUNA over 4-unrelated, allowing the insertion of “emergency” items into meeting agendas at the last minute thus circumventing public input and immediately using that self-granted power to vote itself a pay increase, to name but two) let’s stick to the topic at hand, Mr. Mitchell – whether you support the eventual exclusion of students from near-campus housing. By all your comments here you do. That is inherently discriminatory.

      Not only that, your comments betray your complete lack of knowledge – or maybe it is indifference? – when it comes to sustainable versus unsustainable development. Common sense dictates that allowing more people to live under one roof will cause congestion, a continued decline in property values, and increased safety issues. I’ll wager that only four properties have applied for the new status mainly because the change is being challenged in court – an unnecessary expense to the city, I might add.

      If/when this cockamamie change is approved (let’s hope the courts are smarter than that), landlords will rush in, buy up properties and shoehorn even more students into an area already bursting at the seams. With that will inevitably come sanitation, public safety, parking and crime issues, all adjacent to downtown, issues this council had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to address in the case of downtown itself. And if you think ECU’s police force will simply pick up the slack in the university neighborhood – at a time when ECU is cutting programs, and in spite of ECU being one of the myriad groups which openly opposed the rule change – you’re fooling yourself.

      What this council has done with 3-unrelated is create a potential poster child for unsustainable development. I believe it is also an attempt to allow more bars downtown due to what I’m sure at least one of your colleagues (Max Ray) will likely characterize as “increased demand.” The logic you apply here in claiming the change will turn the neighborhood around is not grounded in any historical reality, as Dr. Weitz has shown (I find it interesting that you have no reply to his lengthy explanation above).

      I applaud your STATED interest in making our downtown a destination. But truly transforming downtown into the centerpiece of a thriving Greenville will require making it friendly to all people at all hours, including retirees and families with young children. Until city council is willing to address the bar problem downtown head-on, with strictly-enforced policy that transforms the city center into a place where everyone can go to work, play, eat or relax without concern for their personal safety, the bar owners will continue to run downtown – not city council.

  13. Dennis Mitchell says:

    I probably should have quit a long time ago because I am not going to change your minds but I believe maybe someone is focusing on what I am saying instead of repeating another council members talking point true and logic can prevail. First Mr. Wietz, you seem like a logical gentleman so I will speak to the issues you have raised and in the event you want to have a more fruitful conversation you may call me anytime to have that discussion.

    Your point #1. Council Member Mercer has been stating this for sometime but regardless, I have never or being accused by any member of City Council of micromanaging anyone. I don’t believe in it and I am often is the voice that pulls council back in line with policy direction. Staff acts at the direction of the council so the idea of micromanagement is much harder to achieve than one would think and the only way it could happen is if a staff acts on the will of single members of council without council approval which should not be the case. If you knew the truth about the attempts to micromanage staff, you may be surprised from which council members it often comes from.

    Your point #2. In hindsight, I can admit I could have handled some situations different but never terribly uncivil. I accept this constructive criticism and am striving to conduct the business of the city in the most professional manner possible. I am human, my emotions get involved and sometimes things could be handled differently.

    Your point #3. You have to be more specific with this item. We have followed the horizons and land use plans as not many of these issues have come before this council.

    Your point #4. I was the first to lay out a compromise plan for the university area in this news medium. I tried to work with Council woman Blackburn to offer a stricter compromise but she was unwilling to do so. We could have increased the square footage requirements or we could have made them get a special use permit amongst other things. All the other ideas I had could not be achieved because of state laws like rental registers and mandatory crime free housing. The process that has put in place now has teeth and there are hoops and regulation in place to ensure the fears of some neighbors are not realized. Above all having the discussion itself, allowed us to address the parking, trash and code enforcement issues. I serve no special interest and give much thought to any vote I make. I made my thoughts clear prior to any other council vote through my op ed here.

    Your point#5. I guess here you are speaking of the Georgetown project. This project has been in the works for many years but the developer himself stated that if he was not able to secure the newly created Capital Incentive Grant, the bank would not have approved the loan. However let the credit lie with whomever it may, regardless things are happening with the help of work from previous councils and also with the boldness of this council as well. I am just happy to be apart of helping us all achieve what is best for our city.

    • Jerry Weitz says:

      Dennis, remember that you asked about the direction of the council as a whole — and my answer was directed at the council as a whole, of which you are a part. That doesn’t take away my constructive criticism applicable to you, but then again it doesn’t require you to shoulder the responsibility of the other council members. It is not all about you — but I understand how it can be taken personally. I don’t know all of who’s been micromanaging who, but I know two councilors who have the understanding of the damage that can be done by that and who recognize that there are dangers associated with micro-management. You need to go the next step and state it, if you believe that is Mercer or Blackburn.

      Reponse to point #2 acknowledged, thanks. We are all human and council work is clearly frought with tension and emotion.

      I gave the best example for #3 already (see above); the 3-unrelated rule vote was against the adopted neighborhood plan policy of encouraging homeownership, and contrary to a program of homebuyer assistance which you cited previously also. I know, staff said it was consistent, but they were bowing to pressure and counting votes, in my view, not wanting to make waves when they see all the other high-level city staff members who have walked away from the city. You (the council) have got them running scared and intimidated in my view. I could give you others — my examples would include changing the land use plan map via amendment to support projects (commercial along highways, including 14th/Greenville and the new WalMart) — without changing policies which are left in place (i.e., not also amended). For instance the policy says prevent urban sprawl and then the map change gets approved to facilitate sprawl. Has happened several times.The horizons plan is not just a map, but some think it is.

      On #4, what disappoints me the most from a “statesmanship” perspective is trying to compromise when the District 3 rep. is opposed. I do recognize you are elected at large and so you represent the citizens of district 3, among all others; and indeed I recognize that the other council members (mayor excluded) also vote on matters affecting district #3, even if they are not accountable to those voters (the mayor is of course accountable citywide). I would be one of the last to suggest the district councilor who represents the area where a zoning decision comes up should have complete authority — or that other councilors should defer entirely to what that district rep wants. However, one of the lowest points in the debate over 3-unrelated for me was seeing the district rep who should and does know that district and the folks there better than anyone, is ignored and/or voted down. I had the privilege of voting against that one as a planning and zoning commissioner, and at that time I voiced my concern about the undemocratic nature of the council’s decision. If I can use a crude analogy, the 3-unrelated vote was kind of like people saying we want to put a locally unwanted land use (LULU) in your back yard and we don’t care whether you and the residents and property owners like it or not, because you don’t get to vote me in or out anyway. That was the anti-democratic low point for me in Greenville. You as an at-large council as well as the mayor may be affected by that, in the upcoming election, since you are accountable and voted for, but the others will not. That’s just the way the council is set up. For you, I think the statesman approach would be to respect that councilor’s views rather than trying to broker a deal. Not to mention of course I thought the change was a really bad idea.

      On # 5, thank you for not taking credit alone for things that might have happened regardless of who’s sitting in the council seat.

  14. Dennis Mitchell says:

    Mr. Noel, I can’t follow your points, you point the allowing a property owner to ask for an exemption to allow a forth person to live in their property but them you state that I am being discriminatory to state that the neighborhood should be single family. I am unsure of what you want for the Truna are other than to try to paint me in a negative light.

    To your concerns of me not responding to Mr. Weitz’s post, I did not ever state that landlord improvements will bring property values up. I did state that an improved downtown with amenities like whole foods stores, drug stores and shopping, eateries and cultural amenities will make the Truna area a highly sought after community thus raising the property values because young professionals and others would like to live in walking distance of a vibrant downtown. I can point to communities like Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham and others who have experienced the like. Several student living properties are in walking distance of downtown so they will not be pushed out. There are other multifamily areas throughout the area as well.

    As far as presenting factual information, the lawsuit was withdrawn against the city and to this date, no new one has not be filed. So the exception rule has been law for sometime and the flood gates of landlords have not been eager to comply with the added scrutiny that comes with applying for the exemption. There are not many more properties for landlords to buy in the area, it is already about 90% rental property which was the case prior to this council being seated.

    • Anthony Noel says:

      Actually Councilman you are following my points perfectly. If they seem confusing that is because I have been juxtapositioning them against your clearly wanting logic.

      What I want for the TRUNA neighborhood is what you claim to want as well in this most recent comment: a vibrant mix of off-campus student housing and homeowners, including condos, single homes – what’s known in planning circles as mixed residential. Unfortunately your prior statement – that students would not be able to afford to live there once the revitalization you are promising occurs – is still on the record, backed by your clear inference that you hope that occurs: “No policy will be able to accomplish what a viable center city can do for the TRUNA area.” If in fact you’d prefer to get all the students out of TRUNA, yes, I’m afraid there is no more fitting word for that desire than discrimination (against students).

      The larger point, however, is that the promised revitalization is simply not going to happen. Certainly not through increasing the number of occupants per building, but, contrary to your comments here, neither through improvements to the downtown – not as long as the bar scene remains out of control. In fact, history shows the opposite is far more likely: further decline exacerbated by the issues I’ve cited in my prior comments, which in turn are exacerbated by the combination of too many students, too much alcohol, and a city council unwilling to regulate, harshly, the bar district.

      I’ll go further: The change to the 3-unrelated rule was big, big mistake, and is itself discriminatory against other Greenville property owners. By enacting it only in TRUNA, council deprived property owners in the rest of the city the right to house more occupants if they like. The reason council did not make it a citywide policy is obvious: it is untenable. The parking, public safety, liability and other issues which would arise from a city full of students renting rooms in homes designed for single families goes without saying. So what makes TRUNA any different – except maybe the council majority’s desire to keep students coming to the bars downtown?!

      I wouldn’t want to live in TRUNA or any other neighborhood where students are returning at 3 in the morning, drunk and raising hell – would you? I’m thinking no. It simply doesn’t matter if there are also whole food markets and eateries and the other stuff that you – that all of us – want to attract downtown. Even a destination hotel and a minor league baseball team won’t make one bit of difference if people don’t feel safe enjoying them. So it’s really very simple, Mr. Mitchell. As long as the bar scene downtown remains out of control, TRUNA will continue to decline.

      As to the lawsuit being withdrawn, you are technically correct, it was withdrawn by the filer for further study. However, my information, from a person very close to the matter is that their research is now complete and the suit is about to be re-filed.

  15. Dennis Mitchell says:

    Mr. Noel, when you get a chance pick up a copy of the daily reflector. After years of previous councils allowing nightclubs to rack up fines without retribution, it appears this council has taken a strong stance and has preceded to sue them., I have no special interest with issues concerning the council and I only do what I feel is best for the city which we may disagree.

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