Wendell board empowers mayor to accept land gift

jwhitfield@newsobserver.comDecember 13, 2013 

JOHNNY WHITFIELD — jwhitfield@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Monday night was all about restructuring at the monthly meeting of the Wendell town board. New members were sworn in an seated and new committee assignments were made.

But not before the sitting board quietly gave Mayor Tim Hinnant the authority to accept a donation of 1.3 acres on Wendell Boulevard at Selma Road if the donation is made before the end of the year.

Commissioners made the decision as part of the consent agenda, a part of the meeting where supposedly routine matters are handled with no discussion.

The property, at 4031 Wendell Boulevard, is on the north side of the street behind the stop lights that guide drivers entering Wendell off Selma Road. Tax records value the property at $99,099.

Owned by Phillip Whitley, the property has been the subject of negotiations between Whitley and the town for about six weeks.

Whitley has tried in the past to sell the property, but has not found a buyer. He had previously approached the town about purchasing the property.

“Our issue is always the money,” Town Manager Teresa Piner said. This time, Whitley approached the town about with the idea of donating the property.

Commissioners gave Hinnant the authority to act on their behalf because Monday night was the only scheduled town board meeting this month because of the Christmas holiday.

Exactly how the town would use the land is uncertain, but Piner said the property could prove useful if the town is able to follow through with plans to build a roundabout at the oddly-designed intersection of Wendell Boulevard, Selma Road and Old Wilson Road.

Commissioners have discussed that proposal and some of the funding for the project could come from the state, but the town would still be on the hook for a large portion of the cost if a roundabout were to be installed.

“If we’re going to do anything (with the road) we would need additional right of way and we’d have to buy it,” Piner said.

Piner said there are other uses for the property if the town opts not to pursue changes in the traffic pattern at the intersection.

“There are no preconcieved notions about what we would do. No ideas of where we would go with that, in the short term. We could spruce it up a little bit and make it more attractive for people coming into town from Johnston County,” Piner said.

Other possible uses of the property, she said, could be as space for signage designating to drives that they are entering one of the town’s two historic districts, which runs along Wendell Boulevard from Old Zebulon Road to Academy Street. Piner said the land could also be used as a small passive-use park.

Once the work of the old board was completed, two new commissioners were sworn into office as Jon Lutz and John Boyette took their seats on the board. Commissioner Ginna Gray was also sworn in to her second term.

Starting her fifth year on the board, Gray is now the town board’s longest-tenured member. Following the ceremonial portion of the meeting, the new board got down to business, electing Commissioner James Parham as Mayor pro Tem. Parham was elected on a 4-1 vote. Gray voted against Parham.

Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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