La Resistance says 7 of 8 Rowan Commission candidates want to delay lawsuit over mall purchase; Cohen says why he won't sign

La Resistance says 7 of 8 Rowan Commission candidates want to delay lawsuit over mall purchase; Cohen says why he won't sign

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The local political action committee known as La Resistance says that seven of the eight candidates running for the Rowan County Commission have signed a letter stating that current commissioners should wait until after the election to consider filing any lawsuit regarding the purchase and use of the former Salisbury Mall, now known as the West End Plaza.

In a news release provided to WBTV, La Resistance says "Seven of the eight candidates for three seats on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners signed a letter requesting that the current commissioners wait to file any suit against the City of Salisbury until after the new board has been elected and sworn in, in December of this year. Candidates Raymond Coltrain, Judy Klusman, Leda Belk, Rick Locklear, Jim Greene, Gene Miller and Greg Edds signed the letter, which was organized through the trans-partisan political committee La Resistance, asking for the delay. The only candidate who refused to sign was Chris Cohen."

The letter that was signed by the majority of candidates states:  “We, the undersigned candidates for Rowan County Board of Commission, feel that decisions regarding the controversial purchase and use of the Salisbury Mall now known as the West End Plaza should be made after the election by the new Board of Commissioners. The State of North Carolina Local Government Commission (LGC) has agreed with this position by refusing to approve loan requests for the Salisbury Mall submitted by the current Board of Commissioners. Most recently, the Salisbury City Council has denied a Special Use Permit for the Salisbury Mall project. As a result, the current Board of Commission has stated that they will sue the City in order to move forward the project."

"We the undersigned candidates request that Rowan County stand down on suing the City of Salisbury. This lawsuit will only result in spending more taxpayer money on the Salisbury Mall project while continuing to damage relations with the Salisbury City Council. We request that Rowan County Government cease all current actions on the Salisbury Mall project, including the discussed litigation."

"The new Rowan County Board of Commission, elected in November, and seated in December, should handle all decisions related to the Salisbury Mall purchase and redevelopment."

The talk of a lawsuit came about, as the letter states, after the Salisbury City Council voted 4-1 to deny a special use permit to Rowan County that would have allowed the county to use the West End Plaza for government services.  County leaders had talked about moving several officers to the mall space, including the Department of Social Services, Board of Elections, and others.

Todd Paris of La Resistance told WBTV that he was not surprised that Cohen refused to sign.

"We believe Chris Cohen is the Tea Party candidate," Paris told WBTV. "We were not surprised he did not sign the letter. We gave him until midnight last night to sign it and he had a chance to review it."

Candidate Chris Cohen, who is running as an unaffiliated candidate, told WBTV that he didn't see the point in signing the letter, saying it was a "tactic to manipulate the election."

"I didn't see any point in signing anything that would manipulate the election at this time.  I am an unaffiliated candidate and I'm not showing any preferential treatment to any special interest group," Cohen told WBTV.   "I did read it, I didn't sign the first one. I just don't want to take part in these games that special interest groups are playing to manipulate the election."

"Let them do their jobs without the pressure of special interest groups.  This negative image for our community with all of this infighting between all of these groups needs to stop.  This approach that La Resistance is taking is the last thing, in my opinion, we need to happen in this county," Cohen added.Cohen added that he believes the West End Plaza could be very valuable in relieving space needs issues that the county is dealing with in several departments.

"None of my competition have any kind of construction experience, I've been doing construction my entire life.  I've been doing roofing all of my life," Cohen added.  "A thirty year old building is not old and dilapidated."