In a hardly surprising move, the Wicomico County Council voted to accept the $300,000 per acre price for five acres across to the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, spending $1.5 million in state money to purchase the land and put up a parking lot. The land had been used for years as supplemental parking for the WYCC anyway, but developers threatened to charge the county monthly rent and County Council chose not to call their bluff.
The vote was 4-3 to accept the offer, with Council President Gail Bartkovich and Councilmen Joe Holloway and Stevie Prettyman objecting. Previous to this vote, the Council did approve an amendment to make the purchase contingent on securing the promised Program Open Space money.
During the discussion preceding the vote, John Cannon asked whether the land was needed, but voted for it anyway based on the business interests behind it. Fellow Councilman Sheree Sample-Hughes termed her support as a “quality of life” issue. For his part, Bill McCain added the “stars are just right” for purchasing the land and spoke about the effort to secure the POS dollars – it was a “great deal.” David MacLeod cited a 3:1 ratio of e-mails in support vs. opposition.
On the other hand, “this is not a win-win situation for the county,” said Prettyman. Joe Holloway cited current economic condidtions as the reason for his opposition. Similarly, Bartkovich noted she could support this in “a better time and place” but for the public “the problem is the price.”
So now we’ve allocated the money to park near a white elephant with several weaknesses – the building is showing its age (built in the late 1970’s after its predecessor burned down in a spectacular fire), its capacity is too small to attract major sporting events and big-name concerts, and due to a legal covenant no alcohol sales are allowed on the site. In a decade or so, once regional economic fortunes turn around, the building will be a relic and the county will have this land – possibly along with another 15 acres adjacent to the newly purchased site at another $250,000 per acre.
Nor is the cost of converting the land from parking to parking factored in – the new purchase means the property needs to be compliant with new state regulations for storm drainage. Overall, the newly renovated site will provide parking for about 500 cars.
Perhaps the lot can be dedicated when it’s finished, and I have the perfect name to adopt for the new additional parking which will be used maybe 50 days a year: how about “Pollitt’s Folly?”