It was a case of "can’t we all get along" at the Havelock board of commissioners meeting Monday night.
Vowing to work with local residents, the board voted to move forward with a state grant application that could ultimately lead to development of a recreation park at the end of Lewis Farm Road just beyond the city’s limits.
The vote was split, with Commissioner Danny Walsh voicing opposition to the city’s plan to apply for a $500,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant to develop a portion of a 47.8-acre property into a recreation area. The city would have to use the value of the land as its part of a $500,000 match for the grant, but appraisals on the land range widely from $60,000 to $608,000. City planners say that in addition to the grant funds, the city would have to pay $75,874 to complete two lighted ball fields, bathrooms, a concession stand and a parking lot on the tract.
Regardless of the whether the grant is approved, Havelock will still be deeded the property from the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.
Several residents voiced concerns about the plan during the meeting.
Inga DeRoche said she opposed the plan and instead expressed support for the purchase of a $1.1 million, 15-acre tract on Greenfield Heights Boulevard.
George Corbin said the city needed to get financial support from the Craven County to finance Havelock recreation.
Sandra Lloyd, owner of Cabala Stables on Lewis Farm Road, was against the park and said the city should be looking at other options for land. Lloyd received applause from some in attendance after stating "let’s not make a decision based on a grant deadline."
City officials have until the end of the month to apply for the grant.
Edward Lloyd, commented after his wife, suggesting the city capitalize on the horse industry and use the property as a trail head for use by state 4H Clubs and others.
"We rode horses long before we rode in cars," he said.
Robin Fields, who said she keeps a horse on Lewis Farm Road, worried about additional traffic on the otherwise rural road.
"It’s not a safe place for horses and cars," she said.
Clint Jones, of Havelock, said the horse stables and park could co-exist.
"If we’re going to acquire a new piece of property for our teens and our youth to go hang out at and to play football and play basketball and to stay out of trouble, well let’s do it," he said.
Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders said that the Greenfield Heights property was a good deal, but operating costs were too high compared to the Lewis Farm property.
"If this land (the Lewis Farm Road Tract) was not going to be turned over to the city of Havelock, this land in all probability would have been developed as residential property," Sanders said. "It was a concern to Cherry Point because it was off the end of one of the runways and it helps us with preventing encroachment."
Walsh said he opposed the plan because the Greenfield Heights property would be better for the city in the long run
Commissioner Jim Stuart liked the idea of the city getting the property.
"We’re going to own that land whether we put horse trails on it or ball fields," he said.
He suggested committee of area residents who could offer suggestions as to how to use the tract.
Commissioner George Liner said he felt the park could be used in a way that was compatible to both horse riders and the youth sports advocates.
"We want to be good neighbors. There are avenues for both of us. I think we need to move forward. I think we can co-exist," Liner said.
He added that development of the property would not be likely for 18 to 24 months, and in the interim, the land could be leased
Commissioner Will Lewis said no other property could be found in the area at such a bargain but said it would not solve the entire problem of needed space for recreation on the west end of the city.
"For $75,000, there’s no where else you’re going to be able to find to solve today’s problems," he said.
Commissioner Karen Lewis called the property a great deal.
"Even if we never put anything else on it, we should apply for the PARTF," she said.
"I bet it’s the best deal that we’ve found in 25 years and I don’t see any other deals on the horizon," he said.
On a motion by Liner and a second by Will Lewis, the board voted to apply for the grant.
"We don’t want to go out there and be the bad guy," Sanders said. "I hope that three or four years from now you can say ‘Well, this really worked out.’ I believe we can peacefully coexist."
In other business, the board awarded two contracts for sewer improvements, the first to Dellinger Inc. for $2,697,455 for Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion and the second to Hall Contracting Corporation for $6,979,774 for relocation of the city sewer pipe from Slocum Creek to the Neuse River.