KFP: Kinston officials, residents, seek methods of tackling blight

by David Anderson

city-mitchelltown-college

From left, Kinston City Manager Tony Sears, Community Development Planner Adam Short, Mayor B.J. Murphy and Rose Clark, president of the Mitchelltown Preservation Society, tour Mitchelltown near College Street and Washington Avenue on Friday to discuss ways to improve blighted areas of the city.
Charles Buchanan/The Free Press
 

Kinston officials are developing plans to tackle blighted areas of the city, using every possible legal tool at their disposal.

One tool in the city’s box is the state’s Urban Redevelopment Law. Article 22 of that law gives municipalities the ability to create “redevelopment commissions” which would oversee the revitalization of neighborhoods.

“The urban redevelopment plan is just one option that we have at our disposal. … It’s something to get the conversation started,” said Community Development Planner Adam Short, who recently discussed the law with the members of the Kinston City Council.

The council has not yet taken action to set up a redevelopment commission, or picked an area to start with.

Short presented a map which broke the city up into sections, including those northeast and southeast of King Street; western, eastern and southeastern Mitchelltown, the riverfront and commercial districts.

He said starting with a single area would be helpful if officials wanted to “bite off a smaller chunk and do something that would be more cost effective.”

Although a district has not been chosen, advocates for and residents of the Mitchelltown Historic District west of Queen Street were glad to hear the city is looking into legal tools to deal with blighted homes and crime.

While some homes in the district are well cared for by owners who want to invest in a historic house, others have become subdivided into apartments, or abandoned and boarded up.

Crime, ranging from littering and public intoxication to homicides and shootouts with the police, has become a major issue for residents also.

Resident Carol Tokarski, who has been vocal about problems in Mitchelltown, thanked the council for their consideration of the Urban Redevelopment Law.

“My ears are burning,” she said.

Rose Clark, president of the Mitchelltown Preservation Society, took Short, as well as Mayor B.J. Murphy and City Manager Tony Sears, on a tour of the neighborhood to show them the positive things that have occurred, such as the investment by homeowners in their properties.

“I think the problems can be turned around, and I just wanted them to see first-hand how positive it can be,” she said.

Clark was also glad to hear about the interest in legal revitalization tools.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “Anything that tackles the problems and helps build up the neighborhood and makes it safe, and makes people want to come and live, I think it’s a great thing.”

A Mitchelltown community meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at the Temple Deliverance Church Fellowship Hall, at West Lenoir Avenue and College Street.

 

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or danderson@freedomenc.com.

 

Breakout:

Article 22, the N.C. Urban Redevelopment Law, allows cities to create redevelopment commissions, which have powers to:

– Prepare and adopt redevelopment plans

– Let contracts for redevelopment work

– Exercise eminent domain over a blighted property

– Finance a redevelopment project

– Issue bonds

Source: N.C. General Statutes, Article 22, Section 160A-500 to 160A-526