Whoa Nellie! Don’t mess with Union Point Park

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NEW BERN – That was the unmistakable message conveyed by 150 or so citizens who packed City Hall during a Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night — although a smattering of Chamber and Tourism Development types did show up. The latter group, no more than five or so, argued that ceding one-third of the park’s six acres is good for economic development, and would provide desperately needed hotel rooms within a short walk of Riverfront Convention Center – apparently something that is de rigueur for destination sites like New Bern.

The vote was close. Four on the board – Sabrina Bengel, Johnnie Ray Kinsey, Barbara Best, and Mayor Dana Outlaw – approved pursuing a Memorandum of Understanding with an entity known as New Bern Historic, LLC – with each member of the foursome making it clear that they would be tough negotiators versus the deep-pocketed developer. Last month, the newly formed LLC shelled out a cool $2.25 million to acquire one of downtown’s biggest eyesores – a corner location known locally as the Elks Temple Building.

Plans call for a boutique hotel and complete amenities, which will take millions more.

All four elected officials who voted yes repeatedly fell back upon the advice and counsel of Town Attorney Scott Davis who explained that a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, is not a contract., but rather “the most transparent way to move this project forward,” while town officials retain the right to walk away from deliberations at any time without penalty.

In New Bern, four votes is a majority and will carry the day. For the record, a minority of three voted against the MOU: Jameesha Harris, Bobby Aster, and Jeff Odham.

Stay tuned.