• 90°

City renting acreage in airport approach zone for farm-animal grazing

Discussion of a renewed lease of city-owned land northwest of Washington-Warren Airport is on the City Council’s tentative agenda for its meeting Monday.

Ten years ago, the city leased land (at least 19,87 acres) to Harry Meredith Jr. for 10 years. The land, on the north side of Springs Road, was to be used for the feeding, pasturing and grazing of farm animals. The rent during that 10-year period was $130 for the first year and $10 a year for the remaining nine years.

The current lease, entered into Aug. 11, 2008, requires Meredith to maintain the property. It also requires Meredith to not permit anything, including trees, to obstruct the runway-approach zone northwest of the airport.

The proposed lease renewal — for 10 years — calls for the rent for the first year to be at least $150 and “certain services and other benefits received from Mr. Meredith.” North Carolina law allows the city to enter into such leases for up to 10 years.

“This actual property is in the approach zone. Harry Meredith keeps the underbrush and other stuff kind of cleaned up for us. That’s what the lease entails,” City Manager Bobby Roberson said. “It’s a renewal of the previous lease that was generated by Jim Smith (a former city manager). Nothing has changed, except we increased the price. Outside of that, the lease is primarily the same.”

As does the current lease, the proposed lease prohibits any enterprise, including but not limited to commercial use or enterprise for profit, on the land. It also requires Meredith to not “make any unlawful or offensive use of the premises.”

In other scheduled business, the council will consider authorizing the city manager to execute leases with Sound Rivers (formerly the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation) and the Washington Tourism Development Authority. Sound Rivers, which works to protect and improve the water quality in area rivers and their tributaries, leases office space in the upper floor of the former train depot adjacent to the Washington Civic Center. WTDA leases the Civic Center from the city.

Because of the benefits Sound Rivers provides to the city, Beaufort County, its residents and the public at large, related to protecting the Pamlico-Tar River and its basin, the city forgoes charging fees for the use of the property.

The proposed lease with WTDA includes a $35,000 annual subsidy from the city to WTDA and a 50/50 profit-sharing provision (based on the change in net assets) between the two entities. WTDA is to use its leased areas to promote tourism and tourism-related projects, according to the proposed lease. WTDA has the right to set policies concerning use of the Civic Center and establish rates for use of the Civic Center and its facilities.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike