The City of Greenville will not buy the 1.34-acre former supermarket site next to the municipal building. On Tuesday night the City Council voted the idea down, at least for now, but left the door slightly ajar for future consideration.
The decision halted a controversial bid by the city to buy the former supermarket site on King Street. In December, the city sought to buy the property for $475,000 and likely convert the site into a new home for the city fire department and some municipal offices, pending a further look into the state of the building. But council members quickly learned that the site of what was Migalitos Supermercado until late 2017 would require asbestos abatement and a teardown/rebuild that could run into the millions.
A huge public outcry followed word that the city had not told the public before it was to go into the bidding process on the site. Councilman Brent Mahoney said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the non-disclosure was not an attempt to hide anything – as several members of the public had accused the council of doing – but rather a way to not tip the city’s hand to the seller.
“There was no discussion or thought of trying to hide this from the public,” Mahoney said. “We wanted the seller to not know who we are until we absolutely had to, because once the seller finds out who you are, and you’re the city, and you own the property right next door, it becomes much more difficult to negotiate.”
Mahoney’s comments in part addressed accusations that the city council was trying to pull a fast one with a large real estate deal. Residents made their displeasure known in a council meeting and later public forum spurred by an article in the Herald-Banner that revealed the potential purchase of the supermarket site to the general public in early December.
Some residents were further agitated when earlier this month when the City Council greenlighted the potential use of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) funds to buy the property. The controversy here has been over the question of whether the city could use TIRZ money for a municipal project. TIRZ funds are intended help public and private investors pay for public infrastructure improvements, such as roads and public water.
Mahoney said Tuesday night that TIRZ money would have been legal to use; Mayor David Dreiling explained that TIRZ funds can only be used within a designated TIRZ area – in Greenville’s case, that’s a 1,904-acre section of the city that includes the municipal building and supermarket site.
An additional bone of contention centered around a conflict of interest for Greenville Economic Development Corp. Chairman Randy Tarpley. Tarpley is the owner of Tarpley Realtors in the city, a position some residents have questioned for its proximity to a multi-million-dollar real estate deal, as Tarpley would have been the agent to facilitate the sale to the city.
Most council members Tuesday insisted there was nothing shady brewing.
No members of the public spoke Tuesday night. Residents, it seems, got their (almost exclusively anti) point across at a public forum on the purchase earlier this month; something the council seems in return to have listened to.
That said, most councilmembers Tuesday said they already were less interested in the property at the price it would take to buy it and remediate it, but may consider it if the cost comes way down. That, however, is not likely, as the city had offered the seller $100,000 for the property (with revised plans to make it a city parking lot), but the seller balked.