FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Fayetteville is one step closer to building the North Carolina Civil War History Center after city council approved a rezoning request last night.
But not everyone agrees building the center is the right move for the community.
Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin says he’s concerned about moving forward with the project for two main reasons: racial tensions and funding.
“Based on the information that I have I don’t think the timing is right to do it, so right now if the vote was taken tomorrow I don’t think I could support it,” Colvin said. “Over the last two years, our country has really moved in a different direction with race relations so I just want to make sure that we are thoughtful in this process.”
Project leaders say the center would provide an educational opportunity for people to better understand the past and therefore create a better future.
Mac Healy, Chairman of the Foundation for North Carolina Civil War Reconstruction History Center, says they’ve worked with educators across the state on the project.
“They’re very excited about having the opportunity to teach about this period in our history,” Healy said. “Civil War, those two words bring up a lot of emotion, but everybody that we’ve talked to extensively has said ‘OK I understand what you’re doing now, you’re building a center where the truth can be told’.”
Colvin says there are more pressing matters to devote city money to.
“It’s about priorities, you only have so many dollars to go around and you have to place them where they mean the most,” Colvin said. “Yes, this may have some tourism benefit to it, but we also have to worry about the negative possibilities with race relations in the country.”
Healy says the center would employ 200 people, bring in $20 million annually, and host about 130,000 visitors a year.
“There’s always going to be pressing issues,” Healy said. “I challenge anybody to be able to say there’s a project that will get $20 million annually return, that’s how you fund all those other pressing issues.”
“You wouldn’t want to have a $20 million economic positive impact with a community that’s in an uproar or divided, so you have to weigh what’s in the long term interest of the City of Fayetteville and Cumberland County.”
Colvin says he will work to get public hearings scheduled to talk about the center.
Money for the center is allocated in the state budget, but has yet to be voted on.
If approved, the center would be operated by the state.