NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – Debate and concern filled New Bern’s City Hall Tuesday night during the Board of Alderman meeting. It’s about three possible projects some city officials are hoping to just talk about regarding the future of Union Point Park.
The Board voted 4-3 passing a Memorandum of Understanding that allows conversations to begin on these projects. New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw voted in favor of the MOU, saying it’s an opportunity for the community to grow in many ways, especially financially.
“A Memorandum of Understanding kinda says first off bat, ‘I like you, you seem to like me’,” said Outlaw. “‘Here’s what I have, here are some understandings we have from the beginning.’ Mutually if either party decides we want to terminate this mutual MOU, we can do that.”
The most controversial proposed project is a possible hotel in the north part of Union Point Park. The other projects include renovating the Elks building into a luxury hotel and building retail space and apartments on the empty lot at the corner of Craven and South Front streets.
Some New Bern citizens spoke in favor of starting conversations about the new projects.
“How will you ever look at one another over a table or cup of coffee to say we are seriously talking about economic gains, economic benefits and jobs for our citizens if we refuse to even have a conversation?” said Kevin Roberts at the Alderman meeting.
Others spoke against it.
“Union Point is used daily by citizens for walks, a lunch break to eat a sandwich, launch a boat, feed the ducks,” said Peggy Broadway.
“That area floods often and badly,” said Katy Hunt, the Neuse Riverkeeper. “Replacing green space with more impervious structures is only going to make the problem worse.
“Another concern still with this hotel in the Union Point Park is that area has public restrooms, a public boat ramp. That all is going to be lost.”
Outlaw said he heard the concerns, but also sees the economic impacts.
“Last night was save our river,” Outlaw said. “The night before it was bring industry to town, help me get a job. I heard the public loud and clear. I’ve had my four children down there flying kites, I understand, but please help us the board, get jobs, get a quality of life that New Bern has never seen.”
New Bern officials say these three projects are expected to bring close to 200 jobs and more than $100 million in investment.
There is a petition circulating to “Save Union Point Park.” Outlaw said the Board of Alderman will hold a public hearing in the coming weeks about next stages for the memorandum.