Southport approves sale of old wastewater treatment plant

SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — It’s a done deal in Southport.

City leaders voted Tuesday night to sell the old wastewater treatment plant against the wishes of nearly 100 residents, who packed the special meeting.

The 5-1 vote came with backlash, but city leaders say it was an offer they didn’t want to pass up.

A month ago, a bid for the wastewater treatment plant crossed the Board of Aldermen at a weekend retreat. In less than a month, the sale to the Southport Marina is done.

“The city has done something that it should be ashamed of,” resident Lowe Davis said. She like many neighbors have been outspoken against the sale since it was introduced.

At least five aldermen, including the mayor, see the $650,000 sale as a relief. The plant was sitting unused with a possible clean up cost of $250,000.

“The cost may be even more than that to clean the property up,” Mayor Jerry Dove said.

The core of the debate was whether the city should allow the Planning Board to be involved in the sale. It’s common practice when issues of land development come up that local laws require planners to know the ins and outs. That’s not the case with sale of surplus property, according to City Attorney Michael Isenberg.

Some municipalities work to open the process of sale of surplus land as a request for purchase or RFP. Mayor Dove says this bid came before them, and they opened an upset bid process for anyone to offer more money for the plant property. No upset bids came in.

“The company that wants to buy this has agreed to partner with us to have all of those things; a nice, what I’m going to call, a water park,” Dove said.

The original vote to move on the bid was 4-3. The final one was 5-1, with Alderman Karen Mosteller pushing for the issue to be tabled and for the city to follow the unified development ordinance and consult with the Planning Board.

“Let’s not settle for what’s been brought to us by a special interest just because today we can’t see the opportunities beyond it,” Mosteller said.

“They’ve just pushed through all of the usual processes and procedures in order to make this happen without asking questions,” Davis said.

Aldermen Lora Sharkey and Robert Tucker went on to say the planning board has never been involved in sale of land before the 2004 ordinance was adopted. Sharkey, in fact, made a motion that the old statute in the UDO referencing that practice be repealed. That passed the board 5-1 and will be an issue for another night.

The Board of Aldermen also approved a resolution to oppose two new pieces of legislation in the state legislature. One would privatize ABC liquor stores. Another would take the jurisdiction and revenue control away from towns or cities and give that power solely to the county with the local governments reaping in a percentage of revenue, according to City Manager Bruce Oakley.

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