Washington, Georgia Mayor Bruce Bailey Tells URA Board Members to Sell Gordon Street School to City for $1 or Board May Be Disbanded

Published on 10 March 2024 at 15:01

 

Mayor Bruce Bailey wants the Urban Redevelopment Authority  (URA) to sell the Gordon Street School to the city for $1. Bailey says if the URA members do not agree to do this, he will disband the URA entirely or remove members and replace them with others chosen by city council.

 

The school is held close to the hearts of many in the African American community in Washington, Georgia as it was the school they attended before schools in Washington were forced to desegregate in the 1970’s.  There have been ongoing, differing opinions on what should happen with the school that was left to go into disrepair. Many African Americans who attended the school feel it’s important to maintain cultural history and significance. Others feel housing is a better solution but could leave the school itself to be demolished. The city does not provide funds to the Gordon Street School property.

 

In 2007, then mayor Willie Burns officially formed the Urban Redevelopment Authority with the hope of revitalizing properties in the Southwest part of Washington which specifically included the Gordon Street School. Past meetings have been heated and the emotional connection felt by many, for the school is unmistakable. You can see the original resolution from 2007 describing the purpose of the URA, below this article.

 

Mayor Bailey’s email to the URA board:

 

Good Morning URA members,

 

After discussions with the city attorney, I am asking for each of you to consider the following situation and what I (as mayor and former member of the URA) need to get accomplished. 

 

It was my understanding prior to leaving the URA board we (as a board) had decided to let Bill Gross and his company develop the Gordon Street School property. This, due to the housing authority not being able to develop the property. We cannot allow this property to sit any longer. So therefore, if each of you will consider this proposal we can move forward and finish this project. 

 

Vote to turn the Gordon Street property back over to the city for $1.00 so the city can move forward with Mr. Gross to develop the land. 

 

I am working on other possibilities for the housing authority and Mr. Stuckey for housing in other areas. 

 

I would like for the URA to start working on the Southwest District as the initial formation of this authority was designed to perform. 

 

If, you decide not to move in this direction I will have no choice to move forward with either disbanding the URA or moving to have city council choose new members that will focus on the entire Southwest development of the city. 

 

Please understand that this is not something I want to do or take likely but, we the citizens are looking for action and this board is not providing it. It is already in the community on how this board interacted at the last meeting and I am not pleased with the actions. 

 

Each of you need to consider these options. I think a special called meeting needs to occur as soon as possible and action taken for the good of the city and the property at Gordon street. 

 

Bruce A. Bailey, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC

Mayor 

City of Washington, GA

 

Maceo Mahoney provided the following statement regarding Bailey's action:

 

As a elected official it’s my job to see and ensure progress. We all have supported the URA in hopes of it being redeveloped. Unfortunately the URA have struggled financially to see the progress we all hoped for. My position is for the city to get the Gordon Street property back from the URA with the following conditions.

 

  1. We continue to stick with the plan the community shared in the feasibility study of what they would like to see the property used.

 

  1. The city allocate $150,000 over the next 4yrs making a total of $600,000 to guarantee its redevelopment.

 

  1. A 1% sales tax be proposed for a referendum in our next county SPLOST for the Gordon Street School.

 

  1. The city continue to consult with the Regional Commission and Department of Community Affairs for the submission of Community Development Block Grants.

 

A lot of the proposals I have mentioned can only take place if the City of Washington is in control of the property. I have a deep respect for the URA and still feel the Southwest Redevelopment area can benefit from its creation. I can only speak for myself and my position only but we all should work together for forward progress.

 

There will be a called meeting to address this matter on March 14, 2024 .

 

 

This is a developing story. I will update as I receive responses from other members of council and the community.


Written by Michelle Chaffee

 

 


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Comments

Ken Parris
a month ago

Blackmail and extortion work with thuggery, but it is never a good approach from leaders for bringing people in a City together.

This is a maligned effort to cram down the throats of the community a plan from a developer who is not from Washington with a very basic conceptual plan done by a firm also not from Washington.

Who comes up with notion of pushing these ideas?!

Tax credits used by these type of developers are purchased by wealthy individuals from everywhere but Washington.

The people who buy them benefit from a big tax savings, the developers make big $$ for building apartments and the residents of Washington are robbed of an opportunity to do something great instead.

Everyone else involved and promoting it makes money.

While the developer may build nice apartments, apartments will not serve our community as well as other options for this historic and strategically located property.

If the Mayor and City Council want to build tax credit funded apartments, there is land for sale all over town that could accommodate that without tearing down Gordon Street School or using the adjacent land.

The best approach for redevelopment of Gordon Street School is to hold a "charrette" -- a process where all interested voices in the community and professionals come together to brainstorm and collaborate on ideas for redevelopment of that property that best serves the community. Charrettes have proven over decades to deliver incredible success in revitalizing, gentrifying and boosting the economies of communities!

That was never done. A CSRA study from 15 years ago and the conceptual plan from 4 years ago are wholly inadequate.

There are so many things that could be done on that property that could help save Washington.

And do this correctly and there will be no need to get tax credit developers to build marginal apartments -- b/c so many people will want to live in our community private developers will line up to build homes.

Maybe part of the problem is the URA has never had sufficient funding from the City to advance the work?

From past budgets, it seems the private parties held in private homes by the private group the City Administrator funded using taxpayer money have received more dollars than the URA??

I am also very surprised Councilman Mahoney has proposed a 1% sales tax to fund anything.

Sales tax is among the most regressive and punitive forms of taxation.. and the people in District 1 neighborhoods he represents are the ones who will suffer the most from higher sales tax...

.....because a sales tax makes everything cost more -- food, health, gas, clothes...everything families are already struggling to pay with the recent inflation.

For so many people in the City of Washington, this is the worst way to fund a project.

If Councilman Mahoney believes the City of Washington should / can invest $150,000 per year in the Gordon Street School project, then I hope he will make a motion at the next City Council meeting to begin funding the URA in this way.

No question getting started is a good idea. Driving a wedge in the community over it is not.