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OXFORD — A partnership between Granville County and the city of Creedmoor on a park project in Wilton won’t be moving forward after county officials agreed last week to the city’s request to pull the plug.
But the back-and-forth, which came after several newly elected members on the Creedmoor Board of Commissioners reversed a decision of their predecessors, irked some members of the Granville County Board of Commissioners.
A few county commissioners expressed hesitation about working with the city in the future.
The county and city in November signed an agreement to work toward building a park on Cannady Mill Road in the Wilton community. The city would have provided its land to the county, at no cost, and the county would have been responsible for the planning, development, financing, operation and maintenance of the park.
Creedmoor commissioners voted in January to rescind that agreement and asked the county commissioners to do the same. The county did so March 16.
Korena Weichel, Creedmoor city manager, submitted a letter to the county on Jan. 16 asking the county to end the deal. But the county commissioners indicated they wanted to continue the partnership.
In response, Weichel sent a second letter, saying that the city appreciated the invitation but would still like to end the project.
The Creedmoor board felt that the agreement did not reflect the best interests of the entire city community. If presented to the current board members “they would have conducted an extensive public engagement and planning process before tying up city-owned land for 60 years,” Weichel’s letter stated.
The city board felt the “approval of the agreement was pushed through with little input or transparency” by the previous board, the letter said.
The Creedmoor Parks and Recreation Committee was in favor of the project in September, although it hadn’t seen a draft of the final agreement.
Creedmoor commissioners were also concerned about being held liable for any injuries on the property. The city felt the city-county agreement didn’t adequately protect the interests of the city.
“With sufficient public input and planning, the city of Creedmoor and Granville County may be able to collaborate on shared recreational facilities in the future, but the Creedmoor board does not believe that the proposal for the Cannady Mill Road property is the appropriate vehicle for such a collaboration at this time,” Weichel said.
The agreement would have provided the land to the county for 20 years and allowed for two additional 20-year extensions.
At the March 16 meeting, County Manager Mike Felts said legally, the city couldn’t pull out of the agreement without county approval.
County Commissioner Tony Cozart told other commissioners that Creedmoor would be willing to discuss selling the land to the county. Cozart voted in favor of rescinding the agreement, a motion that was seconded by Commissioner Edgar Smoak.
Other county officials were more hesitant, wondering what message ending the agreement would send.
Commissioner Tim Karan said he was disappointed and felt this was a missed opportunity for Wilton residents. He said the newly formed Granville County Greenway and Recreation Committee was excited for the project.
Karan said a proposed water trail, or blueway, with launch areas for kayakers, could have involved the park. He felt the county had a good opportunity for grants since the idea was “outside the box.”
Commissioner Zelodis Jay wondered if terminating this agreement would set a precedent for other municipalities cooperating with the county. Felts and county attorney Jim Wrenn agreed that it wouldn’t, in part because the agreement involved no money from the city.
“It may make future dealing a little difficult,” Felts said.
Another county commissioner, Sue Hinman, pointed out that it was the city who originally approached the county on this project. She said the public was excited about the park and that the county had been looking for land in the area for a while.
“Then to have them pull that out from us,” Hinman said.
She asked: “What happens when they decide they don’t want to work with us on the senior center? What is next?”
The motion to rescind passed 4-2, with Karan and Hinman opposed.