Stop Hayden from being knocked down

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

by Thomas Councill

The Franklin City Council has set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, with the planning commission for the rezoning of the old Hayden School property from residential to business.

Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn and Councilwoman Mary Hilliard lead the city’s political alliance that runs the city.

Ashburn, Hilliard and Councilman Greg McLemore voted to sell the Hayden land and dilapidated building to Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, a regional non-profit organization in South Hampton Roads.

Senior Services is run by alliance member, City Councilman Barry Cheatham.

Ashburn, Hilliard and McLemore agreed to sell to Cheatham the property for $1 on the condition that if the city failed to change the zoning within the area, Senior Services would not have to buy the land and building.

The city assessed the value of the land and building to be worth $778,700.

The city has stated that it did not have the money to demolish the building. Some report the city estimated the cost to be around $500,000. It is reported that the option contract to purchase requires Senior Services to improve the property within seven years or demolish it.

The contract does not have a buy-back clause, or a revert to the city clause.

Once Cheatham owns the land, he can do what he wants to do with it. The agreement that Mayor Ashburn, Hilliard and their alliance made with Senior Services requires that the project must not fail to keep the building from being demolished.

Ask Ashburn and Hilliard to tell you how Cheatham is going to come up with $500,000 to demolish Hayden when the project fails. They should tell you about the demolition bond.

Mayor Johnson, Hilliard and McLemore required Cheatham/Senior Services to pay for a demolition bond to knock down the building. When the project fails, the city will be able to knock down the building because they get the money from the insurance company, and the citizens can’t do a thing about it because it is now private property owned by Cheatham/Senior Services. They knock down the building and Senior Services gets the land that is worth $778,700.

However, don’t forget that Ashburn, Hilliard and their alliance’s plan to change the area’s zoning from residential to business. When the project fails, the land goes up in value. It will probably be worth around $1.5 million plus whatever they can get for redeveloping the land for a club, gas station, or other business.

And here’s another problem. Take a look at the project’s pro forma statement, and you will see that Senior Services does not have enough money to do the project. Whenever, a business does not have enough money, a project must fail. It is only a matter of time, and changing the zone.

If you are interested in saving Hayden from being knocked down, you need to do something now.

THOMAS H. COUNCILL JR. is a member of the City’s redevelopment management team and can be reached at