One proposal that comes before the Winston-Salem City Council this evening stands to benefit several local organizations and quite a few city residents, if it’s found to be affordable. We hope it will be.
The Piedmont Land Conservancy is working on a deal with the Crossnore School and Children’s Home, off Reynolda Road, to purchase a conservation easement that would permanently preserve 92 acres of the Children’s Home farm property from development, the Journal’s Wesley Young reported last week. But it needs some help from the city.
There’s no doubt that this is a good deal for all parties involved. Crossnore would retain ownership of the 92 acres and receive a significant financial benefit. The land conservancy would continue to fulfill its mission of preserving precious land for recreation and wildlife habitat. And the public would gain what the land conservancy calls an “urban sanctuary,” pristine land near the city center interrupted only by walking trails that the land conservancy would develop.
“It has the opportunity to define the city going forward,” Kevin Redding, the executive director of the group, told the City Council’s Finance Committee last week. “Every ward comes within one and a half miles of the property. It is surrounded by multiple communities that have supported this project.”
The catch is the price. Though the land conservancy has asked the city for $500,000, the Finance Committee has only recommended giving $100,000.
Council Members D.D. Adams and Robert Clark both said last week that $500,000 was too much to ask. “I’m not against this project,” Adams said, pointing to other needs her constituents have asked her to prioritize: “affordable housing, roads and park maintenance.” She said the city has parks in her ward that still need improvements.
But Council Member Jeff MacIntosh spoke up in favor of the $500,000, noting that the land would be immediately snapped up if it were on the market.
“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.”
Of course, if the deal falls through, Crossnore couldn’t promise that the property would never go for sale. Both Crossnore and The Children’s Home, which merged in 2016, have long and proud histories, but finances for charitable organizations can be precarious. Tough decisions may be called for in the future.
And tax money is limited and can’t be tossed around willy-nilly. We appreciate council members who squeeze the city’s dimes.
But MacIntosh is right; this may be the only opportunity the city has to preserve this land. We’d all regret it if this paradise were paved. The parcel in question is actually in Adams’ ward. Its preservation would be especially beneficial to her constituents.
The land conservancy needs $6.5 million by the end of the year to complete the purchase. As of last week, it had only $4.5 million. No doubt the organization has other contributors in mind, but the city should do its part, especially considering the benefits it would receive.