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‘We’re fighting for the residents’

Hope Mills interim town manager defends town’s planning process


HOPE MILLS — With little discussion Monday evening, the town board unanimously approved the annexation of 1.198 acres on Rockfish Road and scheduled a public hearing on another annexation request for Aug. 21.

Much of the evening’s debate was about a sports complex to be located at Golfview Greenway and a nearby hotel, both planned on property that was previously a golf course. Neither the sports complex nor the hotel had been on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.

When the floor was opened for public comment, several residents who have years of experience coaching children in sports stressed that Hope Mills needs the sports complex and that it would be good for children and the community.

They said the fields at Brower Park are out of date and would not attract traveling tournaments. Several said they had played on Brower field when they were children and coached their own children on the same fields.

They said baseball tournaments could generate revenue to boost the town’s economy and that the sports complex would accommodate several sports.

But not everyone agreed on the idea of building a hotel on the same property. JNM of NC Inc., wants to build a $10 million Marriott or Fairfield hotel on the property.

Some argued the hotel is needed to accommodate the families who would come to town for tournaments, while others said the hotel should be located elsewhere. Some said the hotel is not needed and would create problems for nearby neighborhoods.

A growing number of Hope Mills residents are opposed to the hotel at Golfview Greenway and have circulated an online petition against the hotel. The petition has close to 1,000 signatures.

The Hope Mills Planning Department has taken fire lately on social media as rumors swirl about secret meetings and backdoor deals between developers and the department’s staff.

Interim Town Manager Chancer McLaughlin, who still oversees the planning department after taking on the manager role, says the baseless accusations are disrespectful to his staff.

McLaughlin, along with Mayor Jackie Warner and several board members, defended the integrity of the planning process.

“Right now, we are getting a lot of negative publicity related to the projects and developments that come into the town,” said Warner.

She said all planning requests are reviewed by the staff and then go before the board for an up or down vote.

“There’s no kickbacks. There’s no money that exchanges hands. I think that’s important for our community to know. The people that are making innuendos about who’s going to get money —  it’s not happening,” Warner said.

McLaughlin said the vetting is thorough and involves the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, Cumberland County Schools, N.C. Department of Transportation, and the Parks and Recreation department, all of which are represented at planning meetings on Thursdays. He encouraged residents to attend the meetings to get factual information and learn what’s true and what’s not true about planning requests.

McLaughlin said he doesn’t take talk of secret meetings personally and gives residents his business card and says, “Call me.”

“We’re actually fighting for the residents,” he said of the planning staff.

McLaughlin said he keeps the board involved and up to date on every project through his Manager’s Report on the town’s website and encourages residents to check the report often.

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Hope Mills, annexation, Board of Commissioners, planning, sports complex, hotel