After a lengthy debate Friday night, Macon County is set to close on the Parker Meadows property by the April 30 deadline. During a special called meeting Friday night, the Macon County Board of Commissioners listened to testimony from County Planner Matt Mason regarding the feasibility of developing the Parker Meadows Property with the intention of constructing a recreation facility.
Friday's meeting was a continuation of last Tuesday night's regularly scheduled meeting and was planned to allow time to answer questions concerning the property. Commissioners Ron Haven and Paul Higdon originally voiced concern last Tuesday night about the possibility of developing Parker Meadows into a recreation facility while remaining in compliance with Macon County's floodplain ordinance.
On Tuesday, Higdon argued that commissioners were losing site of the need for the recreation facility. Higdon spoke to commissioners urging them to keep in mind that the recreation facility was planned to support the children of Macon County. While the county does stand to receive a substantial return for their money, according to an economic impact study done by Macon County Economic Director Tommy Jenkins, potentially $6 million a year would be generated for the local economy, Higdon said the main focus on the proposed recreational facility should be to provide something for the children.
Higdon informed the board on Tuesday night that he did not believe that the Parker Meadows property could be developed into a recreation complex. “Because the property is in the flood plain, it can not be developed and used for ball fields,” said Higdon.
Because of Higdon's doubts, commissioners asked County Attorney Chester Jones to work with County Planning Department Director Jack Morgan and County Planner Matt Mason to review the ordinance and make a final decision.
According to Mason's presentation to the board, the Parker Meadows property can completely be developed for a recreation facility. Mason presented the board with several visual aids showing where the county's floodplain lined up with the Master Plan for the recreation facility and where the archaeological sites identified by Paul Webb of TRC Garrow Associates, Inc. aligned with the property.
Mason explained to the commissioners that two four-leaf clover ball fields could in fact be constructed without needing to place any fill in the floodplain and without disturbing any of the archaeological sites on the property. “We have also checked to make sure that the plans for the project would be in full compliance with all septic, federal and state laws, and they are,” said Mason.
Despite testimony from Mason ensuring that the property could be developed as intended without the change of any of the county's current ordinances, Higdon addressed commissioners regarding his opposition. “The project has 47.94 total acres of which 7.6 acres are in the floodway, 27.9 acres are in the 100 and 500 year floodplain leaving 12.44 acres and two of the four significant archeological sites are in this 12.44 acres,” said Higdon. “If imported fill cannot be placed in the floodplain and no earth disturbance can occur in the four significant archaeological sites, in my opinion, this proposed project cannot be constructed as designed.”
Higdon also asked county attorney Chester Jones about the legality of Commissioner Ronnie Beale voting on the property because he sits on the Macon Bank board, which is involved in the transaction. Jones informed Higdon that he had looked into the matter significantly and contacted the North Carolina School of Government and under the law, Beale would not meet the definition of a conflict of interest and could vote on any matters involving the purchasing of the property.
After listening to Mason's presentation, Haven made a motion not to move forward with purchasing the property.
“I would be the first person to say we need ball fields for our children and for economic development, but I don't think the property is worth what we are paying,” said Haven. “I make a motion to decline the contract to purchase the property.”
Higdon seconded Haven's motion. County Commissioner Chair Kevin Corbin called for a vote on the motion, which failed to pass after receiving two votes in favor and three against.