Wilmington, NC – Wilmington and the owners of the Water Street parking deck are headed back to the negotiating table, again.
The City Council voted last night to restart negotiations with PB&G about the development of its river-view property. The city's original contract with developer Gene Merritt has already gone through four amendments.
Council members instructed city attorney Tom Pollard to pursue the purchase of the southern half of the lot for a downtown park. Pollard must also resolve the current agreement which requires the city to build a parking deck as part of the developement of the site.
The council remains divided about whether any park spaces are needed on the remaining parcel, with councilman Jim Quinn arguing strongly that removing all parking will hurt neighboring businesses on Front Street.
Although the Council briefly considered creating a committee to look for a compromise at publically-accessible meetings, most members eventually voted to turn negotiations over to Pollard.
Councilwoman Laura Padgett, a major proponent of a park on the site, called Tuesday's vote a step forward and defended the decision to work out the deal in private.
"You really can't negotiate in public on land purchases," Padgett said, "because you're dealing with another party who is not the public. And we have to make a final decision in public."
Bud Dealey, one of the property owners, attended the meeting and said he'd hoped for this outcome.
Dealey predicted a swift deal with the city. "The better the agreement, the less paper it takes, so I think we could put it on an 8 -by-11 piece of paper."
Both the city and PB&G have conducted separate appraisals of the Water Street lot. Dealey wouldn't disclose what price his company will ask for the land, but has said in the past that the city's figure of $4.7 million is a good starting point.
Dealey and his partners had talked about taking legal action in the near future if the city did not start working with them on the property.
Pollard will report on the status of the negotiations at the council's next meeting on February 6th.