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CMS to county: No land swap for development until you pay $14 million debt

A land-swap that could help bring a park and $700 million worth of development to uptown Charlotte has hit a snag. The vision for the first ward is a 3.5 acre park, just across the street from Imaginon, surrounded by a hotel, shops, offices, and condos. In the last two weeks, the city and county gave the project the go ahead, pledging to give the developer tax breaks, pay up to $30 million to build two parking decks, and $7 million to build the park. But the project requires a land swap between the city, county and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman says he has no interest in signing off on a land swap until the county pays $14 million it still owes from another land swap. After that deal was signed, he says the county told CMS that the tough economy meant it couldn't pay immediately and that the district could re-coup the money by not going through with school construction projects. "We want to be very cautious about entering into a second deal until the first deal is done," says Gorman. "If you think about it this way, do you enter a transaction with an individual when you have an outstanding transaction yet to be settled? So we just think that we ought to put our ducks in a row in order. Settle the one and then move on to the other." County Manager Harry Jones says the county is committed to paying CMS for the land. In a vaguely-worded memo to county commissioners, he says the county and CMS agreed last year that the county would be able to address its debt to the district after next year's budget is adopted.