"Concerns about a proposed $1.65 million land purchase by the city
that might alter the neighborhood character
and line the pockets of the city's most notorious landlord
have stalled an ambitious development plan.
At a Nov. 22 briefing, council members put off a vote on the project,
proposed by District 3 representative Robbie Perkins, until Dec. 20.
The move ostensibly gives the council more time to gather information,
but it also postpones the vote until after Perkins has left the council.
At issue is a parcel of land located at 201 and 211 Cedar St. owned by Bill Agapion.
An apartment complex set ablaze by squatters
after being condemned by the city currently occupies one address.
The other, at the corner of Friendly Avenue and Cedar Street, is a boxy, sea green house.
Perkins wants the city to buy the land from Agapion
and combine it with an adjacent parcel on Friendly Avenue
before offering it to developers for $1.2 million.
That would be $650,000 less than the city's purchase price plus estimated relocation costs.
“It's really at the entrance to what could be a great Cedar Street project,” Perkins said.
“But it's been so bad for so long; it's a cancer on the area.”
Perkins expressed frustration at other members of the council,
whom he accused of being unwilling to take bold steps to save the neighborhood.
...Proceeds from neighborhood redevelopment bonds and other sources
would cover the city's loss for the anticipated resale.
...Opponents of the proposal primarily cite Agapion's extensive record of housing code violations,
but also take issue with the city taking a financial hit for the benefit of eager developers.
The Greensboro Housing Coalition,
a group that advocates for safe and affordable residences,
appeared at the meeting with a flyer outlining their position against the transaction.
Among their concerns are the thousands of documented housing code violations
and serious fires in at least three properties in the last five years
that have drained city resources.
“Agapion has held our city hostage and now he expects a ransom,”
said Beth McKee-Huger, executive director of the coalition.
She attached pictures of roach infestations, sewage leaking through ceilings,
unsafe steps and rainwater seeping into electrical outlets to the statement.
...Agapion owned 37 condemned properties and 44 that needed repairs to avoid condemnation.
A case involving the lead poisoning of a 3-year-old resident
of one of his apartments is still working its way through the court system.
The city could gamble on getting a lower price for the property
by declaring the area blighted and formulating an urban redevelopment plan, McKee-Huger said.
...Whether the city buys the property or not, both supporters and opponents of the plan
have their eyes on Agapion.
Perkins said the landlord is only interested in selling the property to the city,
and has already expressed his intention to rebuild the apartments
as they were if the deal falls through.
McKee-Huger at the Greensboro Housing Coalition worries
that Agapion will spend his profit from the city to acquire more property that he will neglect,
thus driving down property taxes which are assessed on structures.
“I'd like to see the city not give him money,” McKee-Huger said.
“He has cost our community an untold amount of money.
There's health care for former tenants,
the cost of the fire and police departments risking lives,
the amount of time code enforcers spend at his properties
and the cost of running the tax values down.
I would like to see the city measure how much that costs and say,
'Mr. Agapion, that's how much you owe us.'”