Wednesday, July 2, 2014
The City of Georgetown’s potential role in rebuilding the burned 700 block of Front Street diminished after a discussion at the June 26 City Council Workshop.
The debate was a product of the June 19 council meeting when the body received a proposal for a block redevelopment plan from LS3P Associates, a consulting firm.
The proposal was for an elaborate two-stage plan for data gathering and designing.
In total, the redevelopment plan would cost $122,465.
Several councilmembers spoke out against the plan on June 19, saying it was not the City’s responsibility to be involved with the construction of private property.
Mayor Jack Scoville supported the idea at the time. He said, “City property is involved in this, we do have an interest… there’s got to be one catalyst in the middle and I think that catalyst has to be the city.”
The perspective drew criticism from other members of the council and after a lengthy discussion the body voted to postpone discussion on the plan until June 26.
At the June 26 workshop, City Administrator Chris Carter presented the council with a revised plan from LS3P with a reduced scope of work and involvement. The second draft had an approximate $75,000 price tag, he said.
Carter said after surveying the property owners, there were no “willing participants” interested in helping fund the plan.
“In my opinion, I don’t think we should procure LS3P, and my reasoning is, one, it’s private property. Two, the private property owners don’t want to help us to build. Three, they themselves can hire their own architect. … For those reasons I am not going to support any dollar being spent toward hiring LS3P at all,” said Councilman Rudolph Bradley.
The mayor said the work with LS3P was originally organized because it was what the property owners wanted, and the city should abandon the plan if the owners don’t want the help.
“We thought we were doing what the property owners wanted,” he said.
Councilman Ed Kimbrough suggested the city stay involved with a limited scope to help the owners expedite whatever rebuilding process they may choose.
“I think the prudent thing to do is to pursue an engineering study of what it’s going to take to build back so we can issue the proper permits. I think that’s reasonable,” he said.
Councilman Brendon Barber suggested partnering with engineering interns at Clemson University to help lessen the costs.
Property owners Dwayne Christian and Rodney Long, who own 713 to 719 Front Street, attended the workshop and also weighed in.
Christian interrupted the council’s debate: “I don’t want to be out of line commenting, but that’s not the case, with all due respect Mayor. It’s that we would like to be involved, if we’re going to be spending the money, we would like to have a say so. …That’s what the private property owners conveyed, it’s that we would like to have some involvement with LS3P and make a decision in the process.”
Councilman Bradley repeated his perspective.
“My disagreement is that’s your property. My other comment was since it’s your property, standard procedure is when you’re building something you come with your own architecture design to our staff. … I’m saying since it’s your property you should hire one architect to do what you want to do with it and not the city.”
The mayor tried to regain order to the meeting and Long chimed in: “They need to be informed, Jack! They’re not informed.”
Christian continued: “It’s not an argumentative point, in fact it’s how it all started. In working with the city and us trying to determine if we were going to build at street level or at an elevated level to maybe receive the $150,000 per lot through FEMA by building by base foot elevation, they’re saying different things here. When the city and the homeowners came together it was collaborative in deciding ‘does the city raise the elevation of the sidewalks, the approach from the street side and the Harborwalk side? Are we talking about building from street level or raised level?’ We don’t know what the city wants to do with the sidewalks, so how can we go to an architect?”
A back-and-forth ensued.
“You say y’all want to be involved with it, well the whole thing was designed with you being involved with it,” said Mayor Scoville. “So I just don’t understand why y’all are coming and saying this is an issue. But the bottom line is that if you’re not willing to contribute...”
“That’s fair,” said Christian, “but that’s a hole in your Front Street and we own four properties in it, and it can sit there until the cows come home. There’s no incentive for us to build on it. Put that on the record. That’s the way I look at it.”
Mayor Scoville tried to end the debate.
“Well, we’ll cut this off. We’ve got this new proposal, we’ll give you a copy of it, you can look at it … after you review this if y’all want to come in and say ‘we’re willing to put in some money on this. ...’”
Discussion of the agenda item ended after a final interruption from Christian: “I won’t put in a dime.”
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