Columbia City Council has given tentative approval to a redevelopment plan for the Bull Street property, but it was a close vote.
In a council meeting Monday accompanied by the first of two public hearings on the plan, the council narrowly approved the proposed deal with Greenville developer Bob Hughes by a 4-to-3 vote.
Several people questioned whether city officials are moving too fast on this and are not negotiating for more preservation of more buildings and trees on the former State Hospital campus.
That includes City Councilwoman Leona Plaugh, a former city manager for Columbia.
“South Carolina really led the way in dealing with many of the mental health treatments and therefore this property and some of the facilities that were designed to serve actually were ahead of their time in terms of what was happening in other parts of the country,” Plaugh said Tuesday on WVOC's “Afternoon Rush” program.
Mayor Steve Benjamin said he feels the city needs to act quickly or it will lose out on an important opportunity to redevelop at least 165 acres next to downtown into stores, residential units, office space and possibly even a baseball stadium.
But Plaugh and two other council members wanted to delay Monday's vote and hold a third public hearing after concerns were raised that there really isn't a master plan, yet the city could end up tossing in up to $70-million toward the redevelopment.
For example, Plaugh points to the proposal for the city to build two parking garages.
“If they haven't looked at the finances on our parking fund, we are in a deficit as of the end of May,” she says. “So, could somebody help me understand how we have the financial wherewithal to go build two...or bond...two more parking garages?”
As it stands now, there's one more City Council meeting and public hearing before a final vote, and that's at 2 p.m. next Tuesday, July 9th, at Earlewood Park Community Center, 1113 Parkside Drive.