BY STACIE LETT CAIN

The Vance Hotel was again the topic of discussion at Monday night’s Statesville City Council meeting but amid the excitement of finally seeing some movement toward redeveloping the historic hotel came some concern over the time frame.

A nonbinding Letter of Intent submitted to council by Rainier Group L.L.C. (formerly Catellus Group L.L.C.) included plans to develop the hotel and parking deck but came with a due-diligence period that some found concerning.

City Manager Ron Smith explained that the developer was seeking a one-year due diligence clause with two 90-day extensions.

That was a concern for Councilman William Morgan.

“I have been a huge proponent of getting the hotel redeveloped, but I can’t get my head wrapped around this year, possible year and a half, due-diligence period,” Morgan explained. “We are still on the hook for upkeep and maintenance for the building not to mention that if someone approaches us with an offer that we can’t do anything with it. Then if Rainier comes back and backs out, all we have is a building that is a year and half older.”

Generally, a due-diligence period is the first few days after a real estate contract is signed that allows the potential buyer to back out of the deal, get any earnest money funds returned and move on. The extensive nature of this period for this particular development could preclude any other opportunities for the hotel if this developer exercises this right and backs away from the development.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that I am not in opposition to the redevelopment of the Vance property,” Morgan said in a statement after the meeting. “I am simply opposed to such an inordinately long due-diligence period that ties up the property for up to a year and a half while the city bears the continued cost and liability of upkeep without the ability to market the property to any other interested parties.”

Both Morgan and council member Doris Allison voted against the approval of the letter of intent but the measure passed the council by a 6-2 vote.

Other Business

In other council business:

♦ Seven properties around the city were cleared for foreclosure in an effort to clean up neighborhoods plagued by abandoned properties. In addition to being an eyesore, these properties also invite crime to the neighborhoods, according to Police Chief David Addison.

“One of the byproducts of these abandoned homes is crime,” Addison explained to the council. “If you are not going to fix these houses up, you are going to attract crime to them. That is a challenge we face with these properties. We have squatters in at least one of them, we have kids hanging out there, being lured there and they are offering somewhere for people to hide. To let them continue to degrade is not fair to other residents of these neighborhoods.”

The council agreed and passed the first reading of ordinances allowing for the condemnation and demolition of properties located at 319 Monroe Street, 1200 Goldsboro Avenue, 1230 Wilmington Avenue, 1319 4th Street, 1320 Old Charlotte Road and 1323 4th Street.

In support of the foreclosure of these properties as opposed to simply demolition, Councilman John Staford explained that the timing for the city in this situation is good.

“We are in the best real estate market I have seen in 22 years in this city,” he explained. “We have people wanting to get in to these houses and lots and we are the people who can make it happen. Why not foreclose and instead of paying the $10,000 cost of demolition when we can pass that on to the private sector to do as part of their purchase of the property. It doesn’t make sense to throw that much money into it when we really don’t need to do that.”

♦ Also Mayor Costi Kutteh thanked city employees for their response to Tropical Storm Zeta.

“We always appreciate the cooperation we see every day between our city departments but in times of crisis or tragedy we are always encouraged by how much support we see being given to our citizens,” he said. “On behalf of the council we want to thank you all so much for your hard work.”

More than 6,500 customers in Statesville lost power.

Crews from neighboring cities assisted Statesville crews to get the final 400 homes that were without power back up and running.

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