THE $6 MILLION QUESTION
A WHKP Station Editorial
Eight people are running for Hendersonville city council this year, 3 are running for mayor, so there’s a LOT of interest in “city politics” this year. From our perspective the two main issues appear to be excessively high rates charged to the city water system’s commercial users, specifically new and prospective businesses…and the perennial issue of downtown parking. Today, we’ll share out thoughts on the downtown parking issue.
The last time the issue of downtown parking was really and substantially addressed was when the whole downtown area was redesigned to save it from extinction about 40 years ago. What’s been done since then has just been “band-aids” on a growing, ever-present wound. The issue of parking for downtown calls into question the city’s priorities, as established by the mayor and council.
For example…city fathers are placing on the ballot this fall a bond referendum to expand Berkley Park, at a cost of about $6 million, which would be about a 3 cent tax increase for city property owners. This, we believe, should NOT be a priority at this time. We HAVE parks, some of which we think are under-utilized. And city folks are spilling over into all the various county parks everyday. ANOTHER park should not be a priority this year.
For that same $6 million, why not address a REAL need…like downtown parking? The City of Fayetteville about 18 months ago cut the ribbon and opened a new 5-story parking deck on Franklin Street in the heart of downtown Fayetteville that contains a total of 295 spaces…which includes a net gain of 214 spaces specifically for Fayetteville’s downtown area. The initial cost to the City of Fayetteville was $6.1 million, or about what is being proposed to expand Berkley Park. Of course, we’d need to have a downtown site for such a deck…Fayetteville built theirs on a parking lot the city already owned…ours could be built where the city-owned Dogwood Parking Lot is now, which would better serve both downtown shoppers and employees, and a fee schedule could be set for use of the spaces to help off-set the operating and maintenance costs.
But to us, the choice seems pretty clear. Do city voters think another park or downtown parking is the greater priority? For our part, we’d like to see the two issues on the ballot…side by side…each costing about the same $6 million…which would give city voters the choice this fall: $6 million for another park, or for a once-and-for-all solution to downtown parking. The cost is going to be about a 3-cent property tax increase either way.
It’s probably too late to put the two issues on the ballot for this fall side by side. But when voting in the city elections this year, voters can determine where each candidate for council and each candidate for mayor, stands: do they favor raising taxes 3 cents for a parking deck…or for another park.
It may be that city voters won’t favor either one…maybe city voters would prefer to see $6 million and a 3-cent tax increase spent on other things…or maybe NOT spent at all. And we can surely understand and support that. But if the city administration is not going to lay some crystal-clear choices out there or set priorities that address long over-due needs like downtown parking, then voters need take advantage of the opportunity they’ll have at the polls this fall and set the OWN priorities.
If it’s a choice between a park or downtown parking, the city’s operating budget nor the city’s fund balance can pay for either one…and it’d be dead wrong to keep certain fees sky-high to supplement the city budget to pay for them.
So…it’s really up to the voters this fall to set, or to RE-SET, priorities And the voters can do this by the candidates they elect. The $6 million question seems clear…do city voters want to pay that much for a park or for downtown parking, for something else, or don’t spend it at all. If you’re a city voter, find out where each candidate stands…and hold them to it. It’s YOUR turn to set the priorities…and you can do it in two elections this fall.
BY WHKP News Director Larry Freeman
July 28, 2013