After attempting to recruit a grocery store to the county seat for the better part of two years, Warrenton officials are no longer pursuing a purchase option for the Hall Spring Shopping Center.
That option, which would have allowed the town to buy the strip mall on East Macon Street where the Just Save grocery store closed in July 2018, is set to expire after the town board took no action on the matter following a 45-minute closed session Monday night.
“We were not prepared to move forward on that project,” Mayor Walter Gardner said Tuesday morning.
Gardner said after spending some 24 months on recruitment efforts, the board didn’t see the future of getting a grocery store here changing anytime soon.
The town planned to seek approval from the N.C. Local Government Commission to buy the center for $800,000 with an installment purchase over 15 years at a 4 percent interest rate.
Based on current tenants, annual cash flow was expected of $148,000 to cover the debt payments and operating expenses, according to a resolution prepared by the town.
Stated among the town’s goals for purchasing the shopping center were: to prevent the auction of equipment inside the former grocery store; maintain control of the space in order to incentivize a grocer; and offer incentives to a grocer.
Information provided by the Warren County tax office indicated that current ad valorem taxes on the Hall Spring Shopping Center are $21,714 to the town and $26,390 to the county annually. This tax revenue would have ceased if the town had purchased the shopping center.
During a public hearing held on the issue last week, citizens expressed opposing views on the town’s plans. Some questioned pulling a taxable property off the tax roles and the timing of such a purchase due to the economy. Others suggested including in the space a grocer, farmers market and other uses.
The purchase option is still available for a developer, Gardner said.
Speaking for himself, and not on behalf of the town board, he said that the town could possibly consider an incentive to a future grocer who may occupy the Just Save building.
“It would have to be approved down the road for a grocer, not a box store,” Gardner said.