I find it interesting and distressing that the Greensboro City Council voted to take money from the so-called transportation bonds passed several years ago to move water pipes for the Jones Brothers development on Smith Street. (Never mind the fact that I voted against the transportation bond issue in 2000. I read the proposed use of that money and disagreed with much of it.)

I was at the meeting where this expenditure was approved. The agenda reference was for $750,000, but I think that the actual amount voted to be given was $200,000.

Let me tell you about my own experience with relocating city water pipes.

-Two real estate investors bought an old building at the corner of South Elm and McGee streets, near Hamburger Square.
-Two fires on the same night did some damage to the interior of the old building brick building.
-Fires were ruled to be arson. Limited investigation has not (to my knowledge) turned up responsible arsonist.
-New owners did a wonderful job of renovating building, turning it into a bar and restaurant and mini brewery with outside dining and drinking.
-Owners discovered, during renovations, that water supply to two nearby buildings runs through their property. No legal easements were found.
-City water meters are located on McGee Street and water pipes run from these meters into two buildings that face South Elm.
-New owners notify owners of nearby buildings that the water pipes must be moved.
-Nearby business owners contact Greensboro City Water Department about problem, and are referred to City Engineering Department.
-City engineering department can't find maps identifying pipes, and refer business owners back to water department.
-Water pipes are cut and temporarily re-connected with hoses from meters.
-Small business owners speak to Greensboro Legal Department and are told that it is a private property matter.
-Owners ask water department to run pipes from city water meters to their property lines and are told that there will be a charge to do this. Owners inquire about price and are told that it depends on what is involved.
-Message left on phone by city staff tells owners that the city will not move water, even if owners pay.
-Complaint to Mayor of Greensboro gets reply that the new business will be good for the area and will help all businesses downtown.
-Results: Two small business owners paid over $8,000 to have water pipes moved.

-Questions: How are small business and property owners treated by the City of Greensboro? Does the city play favorites?

6 comments:

D. Hoggard said...

Yes, many times they do. But I know that was a rhetorical question.

Anonymous said...

Why are new businesses seemingly favored over existing ones? Do they actually pump more dollars into the economy?

diane said...

Maybe they do sometimes, but I think that they probably just move it around.

Sandy Carmany said...

Diane,

I was not aware of the situation you described on South Elm and McGee Streets and am not able to comment intelligently about it, but I do need to clarify several other things. I apologize if this gets too lengthy.

The city council agreed to move STORM SEWER LINES, not water pipes, from underneath the old North State Chevrolet site that the Jones brothers are currently redeveloping. We have been experiencing back-up problems with that line for years due to a 90-degree elbow in the pipe and had already targeted this section of storm sewer to be moved and a larger pipe installed. Because the Jones brothers' development will have parking beneath the buildings, this pipe was in their way and needed to be moved NOW instead of LATER. Bottom line, the city was already planning to do this work - the timetable just got moved up. Since it was a planned/needed city project to solve a longstanding problem, the developer is not being asked to pay to fix "our" problem in this case.

The original request for $750,000 included money to streetscape Smith St. in the area of the new development. Since the first building will not be facing that street, we city council members balked at funding that at this time. Plus, there are plenty of other streets needing this improvement - High Point Road, for one - so there's a question of spending priorities as well.

Finally, there's a reason the Church Street money is available for this and other projects. The city council was looking for a safe, attractive way for people to cross Church St. between the Central Library and the Children's Museum. When city staff brought us their plan several years ago, the price tags was in the millions and it was far more elaborate that we had ever intended - a traffic roundabout at Market and Church, heavy landscaping all the way from the Depot to the library that entailed moving all the utilities and storm sewer lines, and what resembled a mini-park in the middle of Church St. at that pedestrian crossing. We sent staff back to the drawing board to make it more reasonable and less expensive, and I don't think they ever came back to us with the changes. Thus, some of the money originally set aside for that project has been reprogrammed.

diane said...

Hey Sandy,

Thanks for the explanation and the spin. Sometimes it takes lots of words to make things clear.

I appreciate and admire your work on the city council and the hard work you do to help keep us informed about what is happening in Greensboro.

The reason that you did not know about the water pipe problem is that I did not take it to the city council. I tried to go through the proper channels.

I'm still not sure I completely understand the storm sewer expense, but I will study the situation a little more.

Thanks for your prompt response.

Tony Ledford said...

Greensboro is not a large enough city to have a bureaucracy this complex, disinterested and incompetent.

What a nightmare these folks had!

Regards,
Tony