Fayetteville: Stomping on existing business in the name of “economic development”

biggovtWe’ve been following for some time the case of Jackie and Dale Pfendler, owners of JP Electric in Fayetteville, in their long-running battle with The City of Fayetteville.

The city got a $8 million federal grant to construct a “transit hub.”   City leaders  picked a site for the “hub” which included the location of the Pfendler’s existing electrical contracting business.   The city first moved to condemn the property housing the Pfendler’s business, citing “eminent domain.”

Problem: the Pfendlers weren’t ready to surrender.  They had recently spent $1 million renovating the building housing their business.  They hired an attorney and began to “fight city hall.”   During the litigation, city leaders even went so far as to host a celebration of the pending construction project — and demolition of the Pfendler’s property — on a parcel of land adjacent to JP Electric during business hours.  Talk about intimidation.  Talk about government flexing its muscle and rubbing it in your face.

The Pfendlers stood strong.  In February, they won a settlement from the City of Fayetteville : a MINIMUM of $505,000 plus $20,000 in moving expenses.   The settlement stipulated that the Pfendlers would agree to vacate their property within four months.   So, while we all got stuck with the $8 million bill for this “transit hub”, city of Fayetteville taxpayers got stuck with an additional bill of at least $525,000 — thanks to the arrogance of city bureaucrats.

Well, word emerged this week that the “transit hub” project is slated to begin in the fall.  So, after all of this hubbub, you ask:  WHAT the #$@&! is a “transit hub” and why does it cost so ^%$#@!  much of my money?  Here’s your answer:

The site for the “multimodal transit center” is an entire downtown block at the corner of Robeson and Franklin streets, where city officials have acquired businesses and razed buildings over the past two years.

The last remaining business at the site, J.P. Electric, must be vacated by the end of June, said Nathan Walls, a city spokesman. The building must be demolished before construction begins, Walls said.

The city is using the power of eminent domain to acquire the property, and the owners of the business approved a settlement agreement in the case earlier this year, although the exact amount of compensation has not been set.

On Monday, Councilmen Keith Bates, Wade Fowler and Bill Crisp were the dissenting voters on the budget ordinance. They have consistently voted against the project, objecting to the location of the planned transit hub and the city’s use of condemnation on J.P. Electric.

Voting for the budget ordinance were Mayor Tony Chavonne, Kady-Ann Davy, Robert Massey, D.J. Haire, Bobby Hurst and Val Applewhite.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Arp had an illness and missed Monday’s meeting.

Walls said officials plan to bid out the project this summer and award a contract in early fall.

The construction will take about 15 months, and officials hope to open the center sometime in 2015.

The new transit center will consist of 16 bus bays and a two-story building with about 30,000 square feet.

The first floor will include ticket sales, an information center, some retail space, a customer-waiting area and a bus operator lounge. The second floor will have FAST offices, a public meeting room with restrooms and a breakout area.

SO — We went through all of this time, money and effort to evict  privately-owned, tax-paying, citizen-employing businesses so we could replace them with a government-owned and operated BUS STATION that will add NOTHING to the tax base?   DISGRACEFUL. 

What was almost equally appalling was to see councilman Bobby Hurst supporting this travesty. Hurst is a long-time GOP activist who has the ear of many influential leaders in the NCGOP.  (He is a close friend of outgoing NCGOP chairman Robin Hayes.)   How do we — with a straight face — paint the GOP as a friend of small business when you have stuff like this? 

This story gives you something to think about if you have a small business in Fayetteville — or are thinking of setting up shop there.