Council derails housing plans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 18, 2005

WOODLAND – On Friday, action taken by the Woodland Town Council resulted in the cancellation of a previously scheduled public hearing.

The public hearing, which had been placed on the calendar for yesterday (Monday) to discuss a proposed Capacity Building Grant Application, was cancelled Friday after members of the town council voted against the measure.

In an earlier meeting, members of Woodland Town Council reluctantly voted to hold the public hearing to give citizens a chance to voice their questions and concerns over a pre-application for a $75,000 Capacity Building Grant submitted by Anthony R. Clark Sr., President/CEO of Uhuru Community Development Corporation on behalf of the town.

According to minutes from previous meetings, council never took official action granting Clark permission to place the town’s name on pre-application paperwork to obtain money from the state for his proposed Hazel Street/Loblolly Street subdivision.

Subsequently, the town’s Mayor Margaret Burgwyn sought advice from the town’s attorney Charles J. Vaughan.

In a letter Vaughan wrote to Burgwyn, dated January 12, he stated that upon his review of the situation, &uot;the public hearing and final application process for the Capacity Building Program should not be considered by the Town Board until and unless such time as the Pre-Application Grant process (was) officially approved by the Town of Woodland Board, meeting in regular or special session.&uot;

In light of the first item on the agenda, where council members were asked to decide whether or not the town ought to apply for the North Carolina Small Cities Community Development Block Grant/Capacity Building Program Grant, councilman Les Clark made the motion not to have the town proceed.

The motion sustained a consensus of support from all the council and left the remaining agenda items of whether or not to select Uhuru or some other group to prepare a grant application and/or to be selected as the grant administrator and whether or not to cancel the public hearing as dead issues.

&uot;I see no cogent reason not to follow the attorney’s instructions,&uot; Burgwyn said.

According to Vaughn’s letter, prior to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Community Assistance (DCA) receiving the pre-application from Uhuru (August 6, 2004), the town’s minutes reflected that council had neither discussed, considered nor voted to apply for the Capacity Building Program Grant nor done the same regarding the selection of Uhuru or another group to administer the funds.

&uot;Such a pre-application grant form should not have been submitted on behalf of the Town of Woodland without official board approval,&uot; Vaughan’s letter stated.

Further, Vaughan added that the minutes &uot;contain(ed) no authorization for any town official to cause a pre-application form to be submitted to DCA on behalf of the town.&uot;

In a previous conversation with David Lawrence, Professor of Public Law and Government at the University of North Carolina School of Government, he stated that even though the mayor’s actions to give an unofficial &uot;go ahead&uot; for the organization to submit the pre-application were inappropriate, they were by no means illegal.

Council voted to hold an unrelated special called meeting 5:30 p.m. Thursday, January 20 at Woodland Town Hall, to discuss the sale of public property as it pertains to potential purchase by Southern Bank, authorization for the town attorney to review paperwork concerning zoning changes for the Fineline subdivision and the upcoming Easter parade.