Council condemns property for parking

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 4, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

The City Council on Wednesday moved ahead with plans to condemn about a half acre of property off South Main Street to solve the much-need downtown parking dilemma.

The council voted 6-1 to condemn three parcels of property owned by Shefco Inc., an accounting firm owned by local businessman Frank E. Sheffer. The property is behind BB&T, at the intersection of East Washington and South Main streets.

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City officials have been talking with Schaffer for two years and the city has offered to purchase the property for $105,000, said Assistant City Manager Jim Vacalis.

Sheffer refused that offer, saying he didn’t want to sell the property. However, he offered to lease the property – which can accommodate up to about 60 cars – to the city for $4,800 annually.

That offer won’t work for the city, which plans to combine the site with parts of other adjacent properties to create a parking lot that could hold up to 150 vehicles, Vacalis said.

Although council members remain hopeful the city leaders and Sheffer can reach a deal, they said they needed to move ahead in order to address the ever-growing parking problem.

&uot;We must do something about parking in downtown,&uot; said Councilman Charles Brown. &uot;There comes a time when you must make a giant step to move on.&uot;

Councilman Bobby Ralph agreed.

&uot;Condemnation is the last resort but you get to a point in the road where a decision has to be made,&uot; Ralph said. &uot;It’s a business decision for me.&uot;

Most people who spoke during the public hearing on the condemnation shared similar views.

&uot;I don’t like condemnation, never did when I was on council,&uot; said Andy Damiani, who owns several buildings in the downtown area. &uot;I hear about downtown parking problems every hour.&uot;

Bill Dodson, owner of Main Street Antiques, agreed.

&uot;I’m not a fan of eminent domain, but in this case there is a desperate need for the parking space downtown,&uot; Dodson said.

Whaleyville resident Roger Leonard urged council not to rush into the condemnation suit.

&uot;It’s disturbing because you wield a powerful knife when you start carving up people’s property,&uot; Leonard said. &uot;You need to be careful in this arena.&uot;