A plan to preserve almost 100 acres of Children’s Home farmland only a mile from downtown got support on the Winston-Salem City Council’s Finance Committee for a $100,000 city contribution on Tuesday.
That’s $400,000 less than what the Piedmont Land Conservancy is hoping to get from the city, though Northwest Ward Council Member Jeff MacIntosh said he hopes to drum up support for the full amount between now and Monday’s meeting of the full council.
The Piedmont Land Conservancy has worked out a deal with the Crossnore School and Children’s Home to purchase a conservation easement from Crossnore that would permanently preserve 92 acres of the Children’s Home farm property from development.
Crossnore would still own the 92 acres on the northwest side of the institution’s holdings on Reynolda Road, but the easement would set the stage to create walking trails in what the land conservancy calls an “urban sanctuary.” The conservation easement would not affect another 100 or so acres where Crossnore has its buildings and operates its programs.
To seal the deal with Crossnore, the Piedmont Land Conservancy needs to raise $6.5 million by the end of the year, said Kevin Redding, the executive director of the group. That’s the amount of money the group would pay Crossnore for the easement. The money works out to about $71,000 per acre.
The land conservancy has raised about $4.5 million, and still has a couple of major requests out that it is hoping to collect, Redding said, adding that his group was hoping the city could give $500,000.
“It has the opportunity to define the city going forward,” Redding told the Finance Committee. “Every ward comes within one and a half miles of the property. It is surrounded by multiple communities that have supported this project.”
The goal of buying the easement is part of a larger $7.9 millon fund-raising effort by the Piedmont Land Conservancy that would include $500,000 for a public trail and parking.
MacIntosh said that if Crossnore were to put the land on the market at anything like the cost of the easement, the land would be immediately snapped up.
“The need for the city to step up and fill this gap is really important,” he said. “It is an opportunity that we will not get again. If it goes to development, we will wish we had done this.”
MacIntosh made a motion to give the land conservancy the $500,000 it was requesting, but could get no second for his motion.
Two council members, North Ward Council Member D.D. Adams, and West Ward Council Member Robert Clark, said they could support giving $100,000, which was the amount that city staffers recommended. Both said $500,000 was too much to ask.
Adams pointed to the results of a recent resident-satisfaction survey in which people said they wanted “affordable housing, roads and park maintenance.”
“I’m not against this project, just like some other projects,” Adams said. “But I have to recognize the fact of the things we have promised to do for some folks in the city. There are projects that need to be completed.”
Adams said the city has parks in her ward that still need improvements, such as water attractions for children to play in. Adams made a motion to give the land conservancy $100,000.
The city would make its contribution to the land conservancy from a $1 million pot of money designated for park acquisition in the 2018 bonds approved by voters.
“You are asking for half our bond money,” Clark said. “That is a lot. There is only so much money in the pot. I will be happy to support the 100, but to come in here wanting half our bond money is a bridge too far.”
Adams and Clark voted in favor of giving $100,000 toward the land project, Northeast Ward Council Member Vivian Burke abstained, and MacIntosh voted against.
In other action, the Finance Committee was unanimous in supporting a proposal to lease 8,000 square feet on the second level of Union Station to Winston-Salem State University at a cost of $80,000 per year for 10 years. The rate works out to $10 a square foot.
Under the deal, the city would pay no more than $300,000 to ready the space in the restored building for the university, which would contribute the cost of fixtures and furniture estimated at $175,000 to $200,000.
WSSU would operate a print shop in the space along with limited postal services. The space would be also used as a one-stop operation area for enrollment and admissions, and would house the university’s passport office.
The second level of the Union Station building is the level below the main level of the building.
East Ward Council Member Annette Scippio said the rental would be good for the community as well as WSSU.
“If you live on the east side of Winston-Salem, you have to travel far to get to simple amenities like a print shop,” she said. The city is looking for a restaurant tenant for the top floor, and Scippio said both students and their parents visiting the WSSU offices would be able to have a meal at the station.
MacIntosh, noting that the lease rate is below the average asking rent of $12.48 per square foot, said his only worry was that the terms might be “too generous” given the length of the lease. But MacIntosh joined the unanimous vote in favor of the lease, which now goes to the full council.