Zebulon pondering short-term use of former council chambers property

amoody@newsobserver.comNovember 27, 2013 

A “For Sale” sign hangs in the window of Zebulon’s former council chambers property in August, 2009, as karate student Eileen Burke, left, and instructor Charles Mann spar inside the building. Town leaders are considering ways to use the property until it sells.

AARON MOODY — 2009 FILE PHOTO

— Town leaders are considering making use of one of Zebulon’s former governmental spaces that has been on the market for more than four years.

But all signs indicate they intend to keep the town’s former council chambers property, located at 109 E. Horton St., listed for sale.

“A building is a lot healthier when people are moving in and out of it and air is being stirred, but I want to keep it on the market,” Bob Matheny told commissioners at their Nov. 20 meeting. “I don’t know – someone might be interested in it if they go in it and see what it looks like.”

The town board and Parks and Recreation Director Greg Johnson discussed short-term options for the property, which has been dormant since town staff moved to the Zebulon Municipal Complex in 2009. The conversation revolved around allowing the space to be rented for special events, as the town does with the Zebulon Community Center, or using the old council chambers as a run-over site for parks and recreation programming.

“I think the use as an overflow would be a good idea and the (rental) fees ought to be similar to what they are at the community center,” Commissioner Dale Beck said, noting he wants to avoid a situation where the town is competing with itself on rental fees.

Commissioner Don Bumgarner said it may be a good idea to first give prospective renters the option of using the community center and, “if that doesn’t fit their needs, offering the possibility of the council chambers building.”

Beck also questioned what the use of the property may mean in terms of added costs to the town.

Public Works Director Chris Ray said what services may be reinstated would depend on what policies the town board wishes to issue, if it decides to reopen the building.

“Trash for example, if someone rented they could be responsible for the trash they produce while they’re there,” Ray said. “The HVAC maintenance, that might depend on how much (the heating and air) is going to be used.”

Johnson said he would want to see interested parties go through an application process and that any rental be a minimum of two hours – at a rate of $25 per hour for Zebulon residents. He also said cleaning after use may be something parks staff could take on.

The board asked town staff to look into possible scenarios for use of the property and report back at a meeting next month. Ray said estimates on how much the building will be used and how much more it will cost will give commissioners direction in setting use policies.

“All that programming level has not been determined yet and will factor into it,” Ray said.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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