On Jan. 12, the Pensacola City Council unanimously declared surplus the former Blount Middle School site located at 113 North “C” Street and authorized Mayor Ashton Hayward to dispose of the property through a Request for Proposals.
The PNJ reports today that the Hayward Administration plans to put the property up for sale in February along with three other infill parcels.
However, selling the Blount school property isn’t that simple. According to the City’s disposal policy (Council Property Disposition Policy), the Request for Proposals (RPF) option requires four steps before the RFP can be prepared.
The land must be appraised. All property owners within a 300-ft. radius must be notified the land will be sold, and the Hayward Administrator must identify the development or utilization criteria based on comprehensive plan, master plans, economic or market conditions, impact on adjacent neighborhoods, neighborhood input, and physical characteristics of property.
None of this was done prior to the Council vote.
In the PNJ article, Assistant City Administrator Keith Wilkins said that plan is to build about 15 single-family detached residences. The site would also include a park area with walkways, benches, landscaping and a compatible retention pond.
What comprehensive plan, master plan and neighborhood input was used to come up with Hayward administration’s plan? The development or utilization criteria and supporting documentation wasn’t presented to the Pensacola City Council.
Several residents expressed to the PNJ their concerns about the project. Wilkins said the city intends to go door-to-door to consult with residents and gain input.
The most efficient and transparent method to get public input is to hold a town hall meeting. Every resident would hear the same message, listen to the questions of their neighbors, and hear the same answers.
Plus, the door-to-door method doesn’t reach all the property owners, especially if it’s a rental property.
The door-to-door method was supposedly used in the Tanyard neighborhood on the Government Street Stormwater project, but that didn’t turn out so well.
Commissioner Lumon May said that he would like to have a town hall meeting on the future use of the property. Escambia County contributed $200,000 in Community Block Grant funds to help the City of Pensacola demolish the school. The site is in his district.
“I always favor public input, as do my fellow commissioners,” Commissioner Lumon May told Inweekly in a phone interview after reading the PNJ article. “It’s why we hold town meetings on a regular basis.”
Earlier this month, Commissioner Grover Robinson held a town hall meeting in Ferry Pass on the improvements to Olive Road. Commissioner Steven Barry hosted one on Monday on the sector plan. Commissioner Underhill had a town hall meeting last night in Warrington.
“People need to have a say in what is being built on government-owned property in their neighborhoods,” said Commissioner May. “It’s why I did the tour of the Tanyards in December.”
He plans to reach out to residents in coming week to set up the meeting and will invite Wilkins to present the city’s ideas.