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WINSTON SALEM, NC-Voters in this city of 164,000 residents will decide a controversial $12.5 million economic-development bond issue Nov. 7. The bonds are part of a total $71 million bond package. Anti-development segments argue the money is a giveaway to developers.

The bonds include $6.5 million for Downtown development, $4 million for a proposed business park and $2 million for commercial and industrial development.

Bond referendum opponents are irate. They argue taxpayer dollars will be going into the pockets of private developers. But proponents say Winston-Salem has a lot of momentum and the bonds are a necessary tool to fuel continued growth. Opponents, however, call the bonds corporate welfare.

So far this year, the city has spent nearly $5 million buying land that has been sold to Magnolia Partners, a private developer. Magnolia is building a 13-story office tower at One West Fourth, a building that will take up almost an entire city block. The developer paid about $600,000 for the site. Magnolia previously bought the Two West Fourth site for $1.7 million from the city and wants to build class A offices there.

A proposed business park near Smith Reynolds Airport would receive the second-largest amount of bond money. The city has already received $3 million from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. That money will help buy 75 acres for the park, which would include up to 400,000 sf of office and light-industrial space.

The remaining $2 million in the $12.5 million package would be used to develop commercial and industrial sites. The city would use the money to buy land, build roads and extend sewer and water lines at commercial parks.

The city is also asking voters to approve $6.4 million in housing bonds as part of the $71-million bond referendum. The city would spend $1 million on infrastructure at places where Habitat and other non-profit groups are working to create more affordable housing.

It would also spend $2.25 million demolishing rundown houses and developing land in three east Winston-Salem neighborhoods that are being rehabilitated. Of the remaining $3.15 million, the city wants to commit $2 million to expand its second-mortgage loan program to help low-income residents become first-time home owners.

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