Winston-Salem’s city council is postponing a decision to sell city land to a charter school for an expansion project, a move prompted by pushback from the community.

The council was split on the decision – four voted for it, four against. That forced Mayor Allen Joines to cast a rare tie-breaking vote. He opted to side with those in favor of postponing the decision to sell nearly 9 acres of land in the Happy Hill neighborhood to The Arts Based School, which is looking to eventually establish a middle school there. 

The land is currently zoned for multi-family residential housing, and it had been identified as a potential site for affordable housing development by the council. 

Several community members told the council that the plan amounted to the gentrification of Happy Hill, which is among the oldest majority Black neighborhoods in the city.

“When affordable housing is dwindling in Winston-Salem and across the country, the Arts Based School presents another plan by the powers that be to take an important asset that is from the community that is led through gentrification," said Abio Harris, the president of the Happy Hill neighborhood association. 

Griff Morgan, who has been advocating for the expansion project, told the council postponing the decision makes sense. 

“It will give the community and the Arts Based School time to talk, maybe time to talk with some developers that are interested in that area," said Morgan. "And maybe come out with a plan that can meet both the needs of affordable housing and the needs for building something that the city of arts and innovation will be proud of.”

Councilmember Annette Scippio will hold a community meeting to discuss the proposal on September 28 at 6 p.m. at the Sims Neighborhood Center. The council is set to vote on the proposal on October 17. 

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