EDITORIAL: Town Gives Self New Possibilities
The bad news is that the Farmers' Market on Pennsylvania Avenue abruptly closed at year's end, to the dismay of its many loyal customers.
But this dark cloud has a silver lining: The unexpected appearance of this piece of property on the real-estate market has dealt a wild card into a different game: the debate over what kinds of new municipal facilities the town of Southern Pines needs, and where.
There is no denying that the need exists. For decades, Southern Pines housed some of its municipal offices and its police station in an overcrowded and generally unsuitable one-story structure at the corner of South East Broad Street and East New York Avenue, a pleasant space that abuts the Downtown Park.
Market to Rescue
In 2006, after the Police Department had moved into spacious temporary quarters in the not-so-old former Access Printing building just off U.S. 1, the old downtown complex was razed, and the town proceeded with plans to build a new, two-story building on the same site to house the police station, town administrative offices and council meeting chambers.
But when the town had three possible exterior views of the new complex drawn up, put them on display and asked residents which one they liked best, a great many of them -- along with some town leaders -- answered, "None of the above." Understandably, they considered that such a massive building, no matter what architectural style it was wrapped in, was unsuitable for the site because it dwarfed the human scale of so much of the streetscape in the neighborhood.
And just as town officials were wondering what to do next, along comes the Farmers' Market property, riding to the rescue like the cavalry in an old Western.
Actually, the first mounted soldier sounding the trumpet was Greg Zywocinski. A concerned citizen and Appearance Commission member, he sometimes buzzes annoyingly around town officials' heads in the role of gadfly. But he also has some good ideas. As long as the land on Pennsylvania was available, he asked, why not see if it might have a role in the deliberations?
Broadening the Equation
"Greg Z" deserves a gold star for this one. The more Town Council members thought about his idea, the more sense it made. After managing to keep the matter quiet for a few days until they could take out a 90-day option on the Farmers' Market land, they have now broadened the scope of the public discussion, putting us all in the admirable position of having more options to consider and three more months to consider them in.
The more elements tossed into the equation at this stage in the discussion, the merrier. Among questions that can fairly be posed:
n Could some of the operations now housed in the old library building at 180 SW Broad Street -- the finance office, planning and inspections and such -- possibly be relocated along with the police station?
n Could that building, in turn, perhaps be put to other uses?
n Do there need to be any town offices on that tract next to the park? How about just a bigger park? Or, say, an amphitheater?
We don't pretend to know the answer to such questions, but at least now the town has bought us all a little valuable time in which to ask them.
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