The Winston-Salem City Council approved a $200,000 donation on Monday to the Piedmont Land Conservancy for preserving Children’s Home farmland on Reynolda Road, just weeks after the effort stalled on a council member’s objection.
The council voted 6-2 to approve the donation, after Council Member Robert Clark clarified that his intent two weeks ago was to use surplus capital funds to increase the donation from $100,000 to $200,000.
The land conservation group is proposing to buy development rights on 92 acres of farmland on the north side of the Crossnore School & Children’s Home on Reynolda Road only a mile or so from downtown. Crossnore would still own the land, but it could not develop it or sell it for development.
Piedmont Land Conservancy Executive Director Kevin Redding said after the vote that counting the city money, his group has now raised $5.35 million toward the $6.5 million it needs to buy the conservation easement from Crossnore.
“We feel we are in eyesight of the goal,” Redding said.
Voting against the donation were council members Vivian Burke and D.D. Adams.
Adams scuttled a Dec. 18 vote on the donation when she made a motion of no consideration to stop the board from voting. Adams had supported giving $100,000 toward the effort, but objected to a last-minute effort by some of the council members to double the donation.
Voting in favor of the $200,000 contribution Monday night were council members Dan Besse, Clark, John Larson, Jeff MacIntosh and James Taylor.
MacIntosh, one of the chief architects of the deal, said he talked briefly to other council members individually to drum up support in advance of Monday’s vote.
It had been MacIntosh’s intent all along to take the extra $100,000 from leftover capital funds rather than the city’s cash reserves, which are supposed to be held at a certain level that the city has a hard time holding.
Confusion over the source of the money had been one of the factors leading some council members besides Adams to question the deal.
After Clark clarified where the money was coming from, the council moved to a vote with little discussion. But Burke said afterward she wanted City Manager Lee Garrity to look for ways to spend more money in her ward and in others.
The Crossnore property is actually in Adams’ ward, and advocates of the preservation had said that it would be a plus for the Boston-Thurmond neighborhood, a low-income area that would have access to the trails that are to be created on the farmland.
At any rate, Besse told other council members that he knows the Piedmont Land Conservancy will be asking the city for more money if it succeeds in acquiring the development rights from Crossnore. In addition to simply buying the development rights, the group wants the site to have some parking areas for visitors and trails.
There was no public hearing on the donation, so people who wanted to talk about it had to wait until the public comment period at the end of the meeting.
Speaking of Reynolda Road, Brad Rauschenberg called the route between Old Salem and Bethabara a “sacred space” for community history, and noted that the views of the Children’s Home farmland enhance the “cultural heritage of the Piedmont.”
“We must continue to have that view,” he said during public comments.
But Yusef Suggs, while not specifically mentioning the land-preservation contribution, noted that the council is “giving away money even though there are so many needs in the city.” Suggs is executive director of a citizen’s group called Action4Now.
Michael Banner praised the effort to conserve land, but suggested the land be used for the active growing of crops rather than as pasture.
Actually, as Redding explained, Crossnore will still be able to use the land for grazing and other activities that have taken place there to benefit the children served by Crossnore.