County property to become park in Pigeon community

By Vicki Hyatt | Feb 07, 2017
This building is frequently used by the homeless and has signs of drug usage. Neighbors are anxious for the eyesore and hazard to be demolished.

An eyesore and law enforcement nightmare on Calvary Street in Waynesville has been targeted not only for cleanup, but as the area of a future community park.

At the Monday meeting, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners agreed to enter negotiations with the town of Waynesville, which is interested in acquiring three county-owned lots in the Pigeon community.

The county acquired land, which includes a dilapidated building, through the foreclosure process, which cost about $16,000.

The county had two offers on the property last month. An individual expressed an interest in buying the property for an event center and the town expressed a willingness to spend between $65,000 and $100,000 to develop a park on the land.

Several commissioners expressed concern about recouping the county’s investment  and returning the property to the tax rolls, but also said they would like to hear from the community.

That happened Monday when a half a dozen members of the public and community supported a community park idea, including Waynesville Planning Board member Phillip Gibbs.

“The building is drug-infested and the homeless camp out there,” he said. “It is an eyesore to our community. I understand you had an offer to purchase, but whatever they are proposing is vague, and from what we heard, the community does not want it. They would love a park.”

Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown argued that creating a community park could increase value in the neighborhood.

“Rather than be concerned about taking tax value away, we believe you’re actually adding value by creating a better, safer community,” he said.

Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said there are mattresses and signs of drug use in the building and the overgrown property allowed places for people to hide when being sought.

Michael Tate offered to buy the property from Haywood County for $9,000, plus pay the 2017 taxes owed on the land. He said he would immediately clean up the building, overgrown brush and weeds. The town’s timeline was a year or so to build the park.

Commission Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick asked if Tate had developed property before and if he had financing for the project.

Tate said he had an investor and a bank, and indicated while the community will have access to the center, it will be a for-profit business.

Kirkpatrick said it would be nice to get some tax money back, but expressed concern about Tate’s ability to get the project done. Commissioner Michael Sorrells said it was a tough call for him because he knew both Tate and the town. He questioned whether there would still be a partnership with the town if it went to a private party.

Commissioner Kevin Ensley said, philosophically, he’d rather the property stay in private hands, but after looking at sketches from the town, with a walkway to Head Start, he was certain the park would be used almost daily.

The board ultimately voted to enter negotiations with the town.

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