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Candidates debate housing project
An affordable housing project touted by some Brunswick officials as an economic boost for the city became the center of debate Thursday for candidates hoping to be elected to the city commission Nov. 5.

An audience member at the forum sponsored by the Glynn County Democratic Party Thursday at the Brunswick-Glynn County Library questioned the purpose of Norwich Commons, a 52-unit housing development under construction at Norwich and Fourth streets.

Plans for the development, approved by the current city commission, include a community center, a police precinct office and a gym that was once part of the former C.B. Greer Elementary School there.

City officials have promoted the project as affordable housing near other developing areas of the community.

North Ward candidate Gary Cook said the development was a bad idea from the start.

Mayoral candidate Starling Sutton said to prevent unwanted development, the community should be involved in the city's plans from conception to completion. He proposed creating a planning body that would seek public input.

North Ward Commissioner Cornell Harvey, one of the commissioners who approved Norwich Commons and a candidate for mayor, said the city could have planned better for the project.

"We should've made sure the correct number of homes were put there," Harvey said. "We didn't do an adequate job about that. I'll admit that. As mayor, I'll make sure it never happens like that again."

Vincent Williams, one of the candidates for Harvey's North Ward seat, said property developments generate tax revenue. He noted, however, that he would have preferred it to be single family housing.

Neil Foster, a North Ward candidate who owns rental property in the city, said the government should not be in the business of creating affordable housing for its residents. The city had no right to undertake such a project, Foster said.

South Ward candidate Felicia Harris said there is no going back. "We are charged with governing the assets of the people," she said. "What do we do? We make ourselves accessible to you all. What's been done has been done."

South Ward Commissioner Emmitt Nolan, who is seeking election to the seat to which he was appointed to replace suspended commissioner James Brooks, defended the project. Nolan said the idea behind it was to kick start an area that in recent years has seen little progress. The goal, and some other aspects of the Norwich Commons, are positive, he said.

Mayoral candidate Valerie Scriven said quality housing is one of her key campaign points. She argued old, subsidized developments should be torn down and replaced with new houses, apartments, colleges and schools.

Eight of the 10 candidates in the nonpartisan election attended the forum and discussed their positions on education, public safety and economic development.

Mayoral candidate Zack Lyde and Brooks, who is seeking re-election while under indictment for influence peddling, did not attend.

All voters will elect a mayor and commissioners to the North and South wards regardless of where they reside in the city. Terms are for four years.

Mayor Bryan Thompson will finish his second and final term in December.

* Reporter Kelly Quimby writes about government and other local topics. Contact her at kquimby@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.



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