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Right call on Summit

Rowan County commissioners are getting a do-over on allowing retail development in the Summit Corporate Center. Considering the times, they’re doing it the right way this time.
In 2003, Collette and Associates of Charlotte approached the county, asking to buy 50 acres of the 200-acre industrial park for a retail development. Commissioners voted 3-2 to turn Collette down and hold out for industrial development.
Commissioner Leda Belk said then — in 2003, remember — “What’s happened in seven years? Nothing. At some point, nothing is not the best.”
Now 17 years have passed without much action at the park. So when commissioners considered a request this week from developer Hutton Growth One of Chattanooga for an 18-month option on 54.4 acres, commissioners OK’d it without hesitation.
To his credit, the only commissioner on the board in both 2003 and 2013, Chad Mitchell, did not say “I told you so.” He was in the minority that supported selling the property to Collette 10 years ago. Instead, on Monday he sounded relieved.
“The market is finally taking the lead on this, instead of us trying to push a square peg in a round hole out there,” Mitchell said.
The reasons for turning retail down 10 years ago remain. Patient, big-picture thinkers in the community would prefer the county continue to hold on. Commissioners spent $7 million on the Julian Road property and its infrastructure, and its high visibility on I-85 makes it prime property. Now that I-85 has been widened and the economy is perking up, Summit could still attract industry.
But with Belk moving near Kohl’s on the other side of Julian Road and other stores locating there, too — all in Wallace Commons, also a Hutton Growth One project — retail development could reach a critical mass at the Julian Road interchange. Rowan residents would be thrilled to be able to do more shopping in-county, and the increased sales tax revenues would be a boon to local government.
The selling price being thrown around in 2003 was “up to $150,000 an acre,” far more than the $40,000-per-acre price the county agreed to this week. But the property has been listed for $39,700 per acre, and its current per-acre tax value is $27,800.
Allowing retail development in Summit does not kill the entire tract as an industrial park. If anything, the shopping center might inspire a new plan to market the property for mixed use, a concept not discussed as much in 2003 as now. If the recession taught us anything, it was to be flexible and adapt to the times. And one other thing: When opportunity knocks, roll out the welcome mat.

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