Action Alert: stop Union Point Park sale for development

Environmental, Sound Rivers

Posted on February 10th, 2022

Write your letter to the New Bern Mayor and Board of Aldermen here!

We have serious concerns about a resolution passed at the Feb. 8 meeting of New Bern’s Board of Aldermen: “Consider adopting a resolution approving a memorandum of understanding with New Bern Historic, LLC.” 

The resolution, which passed 4-3, essentially appears to be a pledge to move forward with the sale and development of three City-owned parcels in downtown New Bern, a pledge that was given without public input.

When it comes to selling off public land, land used by the residents of New Bern, the process should start with the public’s input. The lack of transparency is at adds with the amount of public input went into planning Union Point Park, a portion of which is one of the locations proposed for sale to build a luxury hotel.

Union Point Park, even a portion of it, is problematic as a site for a luxury hotel. This area floods, not only during hurricanes, but during heavy rain events, and even on days when the wind is blowing hard from the right direction. If this green space is replaced with more impervious surfaces, it will increase stormwater and flooding problems downtown. The same can be said of the upscale multi-family development proposed on two City-owned vacant lots at the corner of Craven and South Front streets.

In 2020, Lower Neuse Riverkeeper Katy Hunt was invited to participate in the drafting of New Bern’s Hazard Mitigation and Resiliency Plan. With the exception of the boutique hotel proposed for the existing Elk’s building, the type of development included in the resolution directly opposes strategies the City’s own hazard mitigation and resiliency plan spell out to reduce damage and the impact of flooding in downtown New Bern.

It opposes the City’s own strategies.

There is also the issue of public access. There aren’t many green spaces left in downtown New Bern, and Union Point Park is unique in providing public access to green space AND the river — a rare commodity. Though the now-passed resolution states a diligent effort will be made to locate an equivalent park elsewhere if part of the park is sold for development, where is the city going to find an equivalent waterfront property for a boat ramp, boat-trailer parking and restroom facility? 

Two out of three of the projects proposed do not benefit the vast majority of people in New Bern — people who rely on publicly owned property to enjoy New Bern’s green spaces and New Bern’s greatest assets: its waterways.

The board needs to ensure any use of this land abides by the City’s own conservation and hazard mitigation plans. City officials must engage in meaningful public hearings, and listen to what the residents of New Bern want for their public land — which should have been the first step in this process.

Write your letter to the New Bern Mayor and Board of Aldermen here!

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