Residents jeer council at meeting


Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Monday afternoon's meeting of the Rocky Mount City Council boiled over with jeers from the audience and council members biting back over development downtown and at Crossing at 64.

Local business owner Lige Daughtridge, a candidate for Ward 5, asked the council why millions of dollars have been spent on Crossing at 64 but nothing has been developed there since a Bojangles went up in 2012.

Daughtridge asked the city-imposed tax credit requirement be lifted from the Tarboro Street housing project so that the project could be moved somewhere else, including Crossing at 64.

Daughtridge pointed out that according to a report published by the Telegram, the city is propping up the Rocky Mount Edgecombe Community Development Corp., which is developing Crossing at 64.

Councilman Andre Knight said Crossing at 64 is in his ward. "How dare you come down here ..."

Knight's comment was interrupted by several shouts from the crowd and a growl.

Knight growled back and said it was his time to talk.

Mayor David Combs tried to calm the situation. He said the council asks the public not to be rude but turns around and acts that way.

Knight pointed out that Combs made a statement earlier when a resident asked why the Grown and Sexy event was cancelled.

Knight said the council has been trying to develop Crossing at 64 for years but has been blackballed.

"Sheetz," someone called from the audience. The popular convenience store chain passed on Crossing at 64 a few years ago and now has three stores in Nash County and none in Edgecome County.

Councilman Reuben Blackwell said above loud booing that he wouldn't be intimidated and he's not afraid.

Blackwell said it's everyone's right to have an opinion, but his right isn't taken away by someone else's rights.

Blackwell said development has occurred on one side of the city but not on the other. If people want to suddenly use their influence to help development now, he welcomes it.

"If this is what it took, God bless the Tarboro Street project," Blackwell said, adding the CDC wouldn't be needed if developers would have stepped up years ago.

Blackwell said when it comes to housing, Rocky Mount is a model for other cities.

Blackwell said he wants to lift up every part of the city. He received a round of applause, mostly from developers Troy Davis and Charles Roberson.

Earlier, Troy Davis questioned the purchase of a county club in Nashville by a company owned by Nash County board Chairman Robbie Davis.

Resident A.B. Whitley asked the council about the independent review, and Combs said the council would have a preliminary report at the next meeting then the report would be made public after a review by the city attorney.

Resident Anna Lamb asked in honor of Earth Day that the council take a stand against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will pump natural gas beneath Nash County if it's ever built. Due to legal entanglements, the proposed pipeline is millions of dollars over budget and months behind schedule.

Resident Kim Koo said affordable housing is long overdue in Rocky Mount and she supports the Tarboro Street housing project. She added she would like it to be cleared by an environmental study.

Mayoral candidate Bronson Williams said the council and city staff should be more transparent; the controversy of the cancelled Grown and Sexy event was due to a lack of cultural sensitivity; and WHIG-TV should be opening its studio to whoever wants to use it based on the city's cable franchise agreement.

Charles Chambliss said in reference to the Grown and Sexy event that people should educate themselves about a subject before taking offense to it.

"If you don't know what something means don't make a comment about it until you do," Chambliss said, adding that at least the Telegram columnist who wrote about the matter first Googled the phrase Grown and Sexy.

Combs said he asked about the event at a meeting because he didn't know what it meant.

"I didn't book the event; I didn't cancel the event," Combs said.