More Walker's Bend lots to be bought

COVINGTON -- Mayor Kim Carter cast the tie-breaking vote Monday to authorize the Covington Redevelopment Authority to purchase 12 more lots in Walker's Bend subdivision.

The cost of the lots, which are located at the front of the subdivision near where a mixed-use community center is proposed, is $101,800. The purchase will be funded through a $500,000 loan previously given by the city to the authority, to be reimbursed at a later time.

The council was split 3 to 3 on whether to authorize the purchase, with Councilwomen Janet Goodman, Hawnethia Williams and Ocie Franklin in favor and Councilmen Mike Whatley, Chris Smith and Keith Dalton opposed. Carter cast the vote in favor of the purchase.

Smith said he was opposed to the purchase because there was no appraisal done on the lots.

"I think they're paying too much for them. There are lots going for $5,000 in $300,000-home neighborhoods. I don't see how we can justify spending taxpayer money and not having an appraisal on property," he said.

Smith said he's also concerned about purchasing more lots when the authority has yet to sell 32 lots previously purchased. A deal with a private developer is in the works and the closing on those lots is set for June, according to Planning Director Randy Vinson.

"I understand when they sell the lots they will reimburse the city, but what I don't want to happen is for them to say they sold four or five lots and they're going to buy four or five more. That's what scares me. We could wind up taking on a whole subdivision, and I question whether government needs to be involved in that," Smith said.

The authority will purchase the lots from Rialto Capital in Atlanta.

In related news, the city has acquired a new partner for construction of the mixed-use community center in Walker's Bend. Paces Foundation Inc., a nonprofit community housing development corporation, will apply for $1 million in tax credits through the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program to apply toward the project.

Additional funding will come from a variety of sources. County commissioners approved Tuesday night a resolution stating their intent to allocate $435,000 of remaining federal Neighborhood Stabilization money to the city as well as between $500,000 and $545,000 in SPLOST 2011 funds designated for a community center in District 4. The county has already authorized the city to apply for additional NSP dollars totaling $1.085 million in its stead. Also, the city is applying for an $800,000 Community Development Block Grant. If the grant and tax credits are approved, total available funding for the project will be $3.85 million. If all goes as planned, construction could be completed in early 2013, Vinson said.

The four-story building will include a mix of residential and commercial space. The residential component would include 18 two-bedroom units and 12 one-bedroom units. The commercial portion would include a 4,500-square-foot commercial kitchen and 4,500 in additional square footage for commercial/retail space.

The kitchen would be used by residents who have catering businesses or need to cook for large gatherings, but don't have a commercial kitchen as required by the city's ordinance. It would be available to the community to rent.

The remaining space would serve as an incubator for start-up businesses as well as classrooms for homeowner education, job training and other programs.