Baseball talks to continue without county, Saffo says - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Baseball talks to continue without county, Saffo says

Courtesy: Wesley University Courtesy: Wesley University

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo tells that members of city council did not know about the county's decision to back out of discussions to bring a baseball team and stadium to the city until after the news was reported.

Saffo did say, however, that he expected the cooperation with the county to be strained given the comments of the county commissioners at Tuesday's city council meeting.

Wilmington City Council voted to annex a roughly 27-acre lot into the city last night.  The owner of the property, Flournoy Development, asked to be annexed into the city. 

In March 2011, New Hanover County Commissioners voted 3-2 to reject the owners request for rezoning so it could build an apartment complex of more than 200 units. The county based its decision partly on the potential traffic impact in that part of Market Street.

Both Commission Chairman Ted Davis and Vice-Chairman Barfield spoke to council members Tuesday night, noting that a vote to approve annexation would be detrimental to city-county relations. 

Wednesday, Barfield told the city has set back city-county relations 15 years with this vote.  County Manager Bruce Shell confirmed that he informed city leaders and the private developer that the county would not continue to participate in baseball discussions.

For weeks, city and county leaders have been working behind the scenes to formulate a plan to bring a baseball stadium to downtown Wilmington. 

In an email to some members of the commission Wednesday, Wilmington City Council Member Neil Anderson encouraged members of the commission to "be the better man in this relationship and make a gesture of greater/stronger support in their partnership on this once in a lifetime opportunity for our city, county, and region."

Several members of Wilmington City Council have said that they will continue to pursue a potential baseball stadium in downtown Wilmington.

"We love baseball," said project developer Chuck Schoninger. "We think it would be great for the city, county and citizens. We remain hopeful that everyone can come together."

Mayor Saffo said the plans will change without the county's help, and added that the city will continue to work with the developer and the Atlanta Braves to find a way to host professional baseball in Wilmington.

"We're going to pursue it," said, "because it's our obligation to do so."

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