A draft plan for selling nonessential town-owned properties was discussed Thursday during a work session of the North Wilkesboro commissioners.

Town Manager Wilson Hooper presented highlights of the proposed policy to the commissioners during their first in-person meeting since March 26, held with social distancing measures at the Stone Center on Cherry Street.

The policy includes criteria for evaluating if property should be deemed “surplus,” a call to dispose of surplus property quickly and a review of legal disposal methods. This includes the upset bid process used for selling a town-owned building at 912 Main Street for $65,784 in June 2019.

The board has frequently discussed seeking private redevelopment of a town-owned building at 910 Main Street, the old Elks Lodge on Finley Avenue and the old town water treatment plant on the Reddies River. A town-financed study completed in February 2019 concluded that the town should look locally to find prospects for private redevelopment of the old water plant and Elks Lodge properties.

Under the draft policy, the town manager decides if property is surplus by determining if it now is used by the town or is needed for immediate town use, if it’s needed for a project in the town’s 10-year capital improvement plan and if special factors, such as cultural value, exist.

If all the answer is yes to all of those questions, the town manager then decides if the property is developable, if it likely is more useful to an outside party and if it’s free of liens, citations or other factors that might complicate a sale or exchange.

Hooper included with the draft policy a list of the 59 properties owned by the town, including 11 small or “residual” parcels and some the town obviously wouldn’t sell like town hall.

He said the town would consider selling a property if certain triggers occurred, including a credible outside offer to purchase or exchange property; request from a nonprofit entity to buy, lease or exchange property; a previously-occupied facility becoming vacant; or if the board voted to consider disposing of a property.

Disposition methods listed were sealed or upset bid; public auction; exchange; conveyance to another government entity, volunteer fire department or rescue squad, or provider of affordable housing; and lease for 10 years or less.

The draft policy says proceeds from the sale of surplus property will be deposited into a general fund capital reserve fund. If the property is used by the town’s water/sewer department, the proceeds would be put in a water/sewer capital reserve fund.

The board is expected to approve the policy at its July 7 meeting.

Artwork on connector stairs

The five flights of steps connecting Main Street to Kensington Avenue will be painted by local artist Adrian Guerrero, with work on the bottom first flight starting in early July. The top of the steps start where Eighth Street ends.

Guerrero, a recent graduate of Wilkes Early College High School, will be paid $500 for the first flight. The Downtown North Wilkesboro Partnership plans to fund it with a Grassroots Art Program grant it is seeking from the N.C. Arts Council, said Crystal Keener, director of the partnership and town tourism.

Keener said the funding has been secured even if the 50/50 matching grant isn’t awarded. The town would contribute matching in-kind support by cleaning and prepping the steps and priming them with white or grey paint.

The artwork will resemble geometric landscapes, said Keener, adding that Guerrero has a plan that will tie all five flights together. “We’ve met with the artist a couple of times, and he starts at Guilford College in August. He wants to start in early July and finish in a couple of weeks if there’s not much bad weather.”

Keener said Guerrero will utilize paints stored for the Yadkin Valley Marketplace mural project, which Hooper said is to be completed in 2020 in a collaboration between the town and Wilkes Art Gallery board.

The board will be asked to officially approve painting the five flights of steps on July 7, Keener added.

Rezoning request

A public hearing at 5:30 p.m. July 7 was called for a rezoning request at 1035 Mountain View Road (parcel 1200648). Property owners Lucrecia and Ana Elizabeth Ramirez requested a change from R10 (low density residential) to R20 (rural residential) to allow a new manufactured home on the parcel.

Planning Director Meredith Detsch said Thursday that she earlier approved the owners’ request to replace an existing single-wide manufactured home with a new single-wide because the town’s zoning ordinance allows the replacement of manufactured homes if they are the same size and meet Department of Housing and Urban Development standards.

Due to a mix-up with a manufacturer, Detsch said, a doublewide home was recently placed on the property, making the home a non-conforming structure and no longer eligible for grandfathering by the planning department.

The Ramirezes wish to keep the double-wide on the property, “for cost efficiency and to get the proper-sized home they need for their family,” Detsch said. The rezoning would be necessary because R20 is the town’s only residential zoning district that allows the installation of any sized manufactured home.

The town’s planning board recommended approving the rezoning request on June 12. The 1.14-acre parcel is in the town’s extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Pool financial report

Hooper shared financial considerations involved in the June 1 decision to not open the Smoot Park Pool this year for the summer. It normally opens on Memorial Day weekend, for the summer.

“We’ve always lost money on it, and that’s okay because it’s a service,” he said.

“With our revenues contracting (due to the coronavirus pandemic) and us having an uncertain financial picture going into the new year, doubling our losses (by having to open the pool twice in one fiscal year) doesn’t seem like a prudent approach to me.”

The pool costs the town anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 every year to operate, he added.

Hooper estimated that opening the pool this late in the year would cost about $27,000 and take six to eight weeks. He said the pool would gross less than $7,500 after being open only three weeks, leading to a net loss of over $20,000 in 2020.

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