Source: Town Bringing Restaurant to Park with Exclusive Catering Deal

What was once Town Council’s widely publicized plan to build a replica, of sorts, of the town’s former train station in the town park to serve as a museum and meeting place for community and civic organizations, has since morphed into a closely guarded plan to build a restaurant that will have an exclusive contract with the Town to cater events held at the Town Council’s soon to be finished Doko Manor, also located in the park.

Sources close to the project who are not authorized to talk about the plans, have told The Voice that the town has applied for a $1 million grant that it hopes to use to build the restaurant building. According to sources, the Town will lease the building to a restaurateur out of Camden. While the restaurateur would not speak on the record about specifics of the project, he did say he was excited about the opportunity.

“We are still in negotiations at this point,” he said, “but we don’t have a final timetable yet.”

In August, Town Council passed a resolution to pursue the mostly secret venture as an economic development project. The resolution stated that the Town could “use funds paid by a utility to fund certain eligible infrastructure projects owned or constructed by the Town.”

Town Administrator John Perry told The Voice that the town planned to use those funds, provided by Fairfield Electric Co-op, to landscape the grounds around the proposed building [restaurant].

Asked if the town still plans to build the depot replica if the restaurant is built, Mayor J. Michael Ross said that it does not.

For the last 12 years, the town government has promised that the proposed depot would eventually provide a meeting room for the community’s civic organizations.

“But we are not going to leave them without a meeting place,” Ross said. “We just don’t have that part figured out yet.”

The idea of building a replica of the town’s former depot came when 18 of the 37 members of the Blythewood Community Association agreed, in 1999, to donate the 5-acre Community Center property to the Town along with the Association’s cash assets ($800). While there were no restrictions on how the town might dispose of the property or use the proceeds from its sale, the $800 was to be used to develop land set aside for the town park.

In appreciation for the donation, the town’s mayor at that time, Roland Ballow, promised the Association’s members that the town would build a replica of the depot that would include a meeting room that members of the Community Association and other civic organizations in the community could use at no charge.

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