GARLAND — A years-running matter regarding the Garland Fire Department’s possible acquisition of land from the town for a new station looks to have come to a successful and amiable conclusion, as a property purchase on West Second Street was approved by the town’s board following a short public hearing earlier this week.
The Garland Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution stating that the board would sell the property to Garland Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department Inc. in exchange for the minimum purchase price of $20,000. The resolution stated that the mayor would authorize the execution of all necessary documents to complete the transaction and transfer of property.
The vote came during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, held at American Legion Post 502.
In recent months, Garland fire chief Thomas Norris has pushed for the town’s consideration of a department-requested site for a new fire station. He told the board that he had measured land at the town’s industrial park and stated the plans for the new building could be accommodated at the site. Norris had made similar proposals in recent years, but the matter, ongoing since the department was incorporated several years back, was always delayed in favor of further negotiations.
In July, Norris proposed to purchase a parcel of land at the Garland Industrial Park for $20,000. The park, located in a residential area off N.C. 411 toward Roseboro, was purchased by the town more than a decade ago and Garland mayor Winifred Murphy said the board wanted to be careful about locating a fire station there because of the area’s residential status.
Last month, board attorney Joel Starling said the land would have to be surveyed before a public hearing is held on the proposal and the purchase considered. Starling brought the board and audience up to speed Tuesday.
“The property affronts West Second Street. It is 1.7 acres and we have a survey prepared showing the 1.7-acre tract that the fire department has requested,” said Starling. He circulated the survey map at the public hearing, during which just one person spoke.
Garland resident Tim Register asked to see the tract being proposed and made several comments in favor of the department’s efforts and a new station that could benefit the department and the town.
“I want to say first of all that I appreciate our fire department. I am glad that we have a fire department in the town of Garland,” he said. “I would hope that we would do everything we can to keep the fire department in the city limits. I think that the town needs to work with the fire department any way they can in order to get the land to them so that the new building can get built.”
He noted that in the development business, many looking to develop in a new area often look at what that particular town or city has to offer — fire departments and their services, notably new facilities, are at the top of the list.
“It’s amazing that one of the things they look for in growing and progressive areas are new fire stations,” Register said. “That’s just one of the things they see as economic prosperity. So I think it’s a good thing that the fire department is considering building a new station.”
Upon the department’s incorporation, the town offered a piece of its property as the site for a new fire station. The tract is located along West Second Street (N.C. 411), in a large strip of land designated as the town’s Industrial Park. Fire officials did not like the way the land was divided up, and wanted a different section toward the middle of the town property. However, the town did not want a new site for the fire station to come at the expense of the entire piece of industrial park property.
That was a point of contention, and Register made note of the lingering issue — which, according to the survey, was resolved.
“I do believe that this piece of property, if I’m looking at it right, is such that the piece that is being sold would not be in the center of the piece that we now own, so it will leave a large piece for further development. It would only take a corner,” said Register. “That would’ve been my one hold-back would be not to sell the center so it would be tough to develop around it. I believe that this would leave enough land for you to develop around that.”
Norris has told the town board a separate tract, one with direct access to N.C. 411, would offer better access to and from main roadways. Traffic can be crowded in the initial response to calls, Norris has noted, with the fire truck forced to dodge parked vehicles around the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church and out toward the highway. The fire chief said a station with four bigger bays would be necessary, because the trucks themselves are growing in size.
Murphy has said in recent meetings that the town wanted to work with the department, but also wanted to make an informed decision. Definitive plans and numbers, including measurements, proposed building size and acreage of land needed were requested by the board, and subsequently received.
“As to the finances of the deal, I’m not going to give an opinion on that. That’s for you as a board,” said Register, “but I am in support of the board working with the fire department every way that you can in order to be able to get them some property to build them a new building.”
That first step was taken with the approval of the property purchase Tuesday night.
Commissioner Ralph Smith made a motion to approve the resolution, seconded by Commissioner Mike Toler. It was approved unanimously.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.