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City clears land for potential development

Trees at the former Roosevelt Ingram Park will soon come down.

At their last meeting, the city council decided to remove 6-7 acres of oak, pine, sweet gum, maple and other hardwoods from the property to pave the way for potential business development.

Once the trees are removed, the city will begin installing erosion control structures at the site so the N.C. Air National Guard can come in and grade it.

“That will be a huge benefit to us,” Mayor Ronnie Michael said.

The city has been trying to sell the property for 15 years now, staff explained. Located on N.C. Highway 24-27, not far from the Wal-Mart shopping center, it seems like an ideal retail property. However, the land is too high up, officials said. Located at the top of a hill, the former park is only accessible by a steep drive. It’s optimal for retail properties to be at highway level.

No visiting developer has been willing to take on that amount of grading.

However, about two years ago, the city contacted the N.C. Air National Guard about the dilemma. From time to time, the NCANG levels public sites as a training exercise for its troops. The city asked NCANG to consider the park. In agreeing to do so, the NCANG will cut the cost of grading it by about $180,000, leaving the city with only $80,000 in erosion control measures to pay for.

“If we can get on line with what we need to get done, they’ve said they want to be here in August,” Michael said.

However, even after the project is done, the site may still not be exactly what developers want. While the NCANG plans to grade the site to about the same height as the neighboring property, that will not be brought down to highway-level as developers prefer.

Still it will be a lot closer, councilors concluded.

The motion to solicit bids for tree removal was unanimous.