May Town Center developers have invited Planning Commission members on a cross-country trip that will include stops in North Carolina and Virginia next week.
The purpose of the trip is to tour the Piedmont Triad Research Park in Winston-Salem, N.C., along with the Reston Town Center in Reston, Va.
The trip is being offered by May Town master developer Tony Giarratana, but each commissioner would have to pay their own way at a rate of $250 per person.
“I think it ought to be posted and open to the press, too,” Planning Director Rick Bernhardt said. “It needs to be a public process.”
The press was not directly notified of the May 11 trip and the meeting has not been publicly posted as of yet.
The Piedmont Triad Research Park is the first stop on the tour. The May family is donating $400,000 and 250 acres for Tennessee State to build an agricultural research facility. The Piedmont research park is similar to the vision TSU has offered for its research park in rural Bells Bend.
Reston Town Center is a mixed-use commercial, business and residential development after which much of May Town Center is modeled. Giarratana's $4 billion plan has received stiff opposition from area residents, who fear the rural nature of the area would be compromised.
Last year, residents took a trip up to the Adirondack Mountains, along with Bernhardt, to study the conservation model used there. Planning Commissioner Hunter Gee said the Giarratana trip would be similar to the fact-finding trek residents took to the Adirondacks.
“I think it will be up to the individual commissioners whether they go or not,” Gee said, adding he would not be able to attend.
Also attending the trip will be TSU President Dr. Melvin Johnson and interim vice president of research and sponsored programs Dr. Maria Thompson.
The May Town proposal will be returning to the Planning agenda soon. The proposal already has the support of the Planning department, but last year the commission said it needed more information before it made a decision on whether to approve or not.
The May family and Giarratana have paid for separate traffic and economic impact studies, which will be completed in the coming weeks.