Nathan Ramsey's Regretful, Forgetful Memory
At a recent candidate forum, NC House Candidate Nathan Ramsey was asked if there were any votes he regretted while a member of the Buncombe County Commissioners. Ramsey rattled off a flip-flop on zoning… but there are other votes Buncombe voters should remember and Nathan Ramsey should regret.
Among them a broken promise to protect our schools and sweetheart deal for a local developer that ultimately turned out to be a boondoggle and community fiasco.
WHO: Progress North Carolina Action
WHAT: Press conference
WHERE: The Magnolia Tree (next to Pack's Tavern)
Pack Square Park
UPDATE: Progress NC sent the following press release after the event, at about 4 p.m. on Oct. 15:
Nathan Ramsey's Regretful, Forgetful Memory
ASHEVILLE - Progress North Carolina Action today held a press conference in Pack Square Park to speak out against NC House Candidate Nathan Ramsey for key failures in leadership as a member of the Buncombe County Commissioners. And tonight, Progress NC Action will again be on hand for a candidate debate in Black Mountain.
At the Asheville CIBO candidate forum last week NC House Candidate Nathan Ramsey was asked if there were any votes he regretted while a county commissioner. Ramsey rattled off a flip-flop on zoning… but there are other votes Buncombe voters should remember and Nathan Ramsey should regret.
A Broken Promise to Our Schools
In 2003, Nathan Ramsey broke a promise to increase funding for Buncumbe County and Asheville City Schools by returning to a gross sales tax distribution plan instead a net distribution plan. Ramsey's broken promise cost schools in Buncombe County $900,000.
Commissioner Failed to Honor Pledge to Increase Funding for Schools. In February 2003, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “Buncombe County leaders on Tuesday failed to honor a pledge they made more than a year ago to increase funding to the county and city school systems. The Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to table Commissioner David Gantt's motion to return to a gross sales tax distribution plan instead of the current net distribution. The change would have meant an extra $780,930 for county schools' building needs and $119,070 for the city schools.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 2/5/03]
In 2001, Commissioners Wrote Letter to Prepare a Budget that Funded Schools First. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “In a November 2001 letter to the county school board, commissioners said they had asked County Manager Wanda Greene to prepare the 2003 budget using the gross sales tax distribution method. The distribution method allocates money to schools first, while the net system allocates money to all county services equally. The county switched to a net system in 2001. [Asheville Citizen-Times, 4/5/03]
Commissioners Asked Manager to Prepare Budget Using Gross Method; Promised Would Not Make Further Changes to Sales Tax Distribution. According to a letter sent Board of Education from the Board of Commissioners, “The Commissioners have instructed our County Manager to prepare the Fiscal Year 2003 budget using the gross sales tax distribution method. .Once the budget is adopted, we will not make any further changes to the sales tax distribution method in the balance of our current term in office. As you know, we cannot commit future boards..” [Board of Commissioners Meeting Minutes, 2/4/03]
A Sweetheart Deal Turned Developer Boondoggle
From 2006 to 2008, Nathan Ramsey was at the center of the Parkside Controversy by selling a parcel of Pack Square Park to local developer Stewart Coleman for about half the land's value. When the commissioners realized how bad they messed up they tried to buy the land back, but Coleman wanted twice as much as the county offered. The entire fiasco created a community firestorm and exposed Commissioner Ramsey's failure of leadership.
Buncombe County Sold Parkland For Half Its Commercial Worth. In July 2007, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “Buncombe County commissioners sold a small corner of park space in front of City Hall last November to a developer who plans a 10-story condominium building where a large magnolia tree grows today. The sale price of $322,000 was just more than half the $600,000 that the county tax office now says the land is worth.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 7/7/07]
Property Included 3,100 Square Feet of Parkland. In July 2007, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “The property included 3,153 square feet of park plus an alley, old building and small embankment that raise the total area sold to 7,740 square feet, according to county records.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 7/7/07]
Ramsey Did Not Realize Sale Included Parkland. In July 2007, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “Ramsey said Friday he did not realize at the time of the sale that it included parkland and said he is still uncertain of the exact boundaries of the land.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 7/7/07]
Ramsey Called Controversy Over Sale “a Big To-Do Over Nothing.” In July 2007, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “But, he said, the county has been a major supporter of the park commissioners have approved spending $2 million in county money on it and may spend another $2 million and controversy over the sale is, ‘to a certain extent ... a big to-do over nothing.’” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 7/7/07]
Sale to Developer Came As Surprise Conservatory. In July 2007, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “The sale to a company owned by local developer Stewart Coleman came as a surprise to the Pack Square Conservancy, a nonprofit organization in charge of renovation of downtown park space that includes the property. Its president said the group became aware of the transaction only in May.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 7/7/07]
Sale Caused Concern to Park Donors. In July 2007, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “As word spread, ‘Everybody just sort of said, “Huh?”’ said conservancy President Carol King. She said the conservancy is ‘disappointed’ by the sale and that it has caused concern among donors to the project.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 7/7/07]
Discussion of Sale Took About Two Minutes. In July 2007, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “Commissioners approved the sale unanimously at the end of a discussion that took about two minutes during their Nov. 21 meeting.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 7/7/07]
After a land swap orchestrated by Ramsey fell through, the county tried to buy back the land, but Coleman refused to split the two tracts of land he purchased. Instead, Coleman tried to extort the county for twice the market rate.
County Offered Coleman $2.8 Million For Both Tracks of Land. In July 2008, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “County Manager Wanda Greene said earlier the county offered Coleman $2.8 million for both tracts, but Coleman said he wanted $4.5 million. Ramsey said the law won't allow the county to pay more than the fair market value.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 7/24/08]
Coleman Wanted More Than County Could Pay. In June 2008, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “Ramsey said it's possible the county could purchase both tracts. However, he said that scenario appears unlikely because Coleman wants more for the property than the county is able to pay.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 6/20/08]
State Law Prohibits County From Paying Over Market Value. In June 2008, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “State law dictates that the county can only pay the fair market value of the land. Coleman has said he would not split the properties and would only sell them together.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 6/20/08]
Among the many things that stunk about this deal was the developer's plans to chop down a 100-year-old magnolia tree that stood on the park land. Progress North Carolina Action today gathered underneath the branches of the tree to remind voters of the danger Nathan Ramsey poses to local causes.