BY STACIE LETT CAIN
Continuing a discussion started at its last meeting, the Statesville City Council voted to accept funds to begin a feasibility study to convert the Jane Sowers Road/I-77 overpass to an interchange.
Director of Planning and Zoning Sherry Ashley again presented to the council on the subject for the purpose of answering questions presented by the council at last meeting. The primary question was to determine the shelf life of that study, with the fear being that the money would be invested to have it completed but would expire before funding for the actual project was acquired.
“To answer the question presented by Council at last meeting, the feasibility study does not have a shelf life per se,” Ashley explained. “Provided that the area does not see significant change or development, the feasibility study remains viable. If, however, that area is developed significantly that would require a new feasibility study be completed.”
The grant would provide 80 percent, or $242,000, for the study with the city chipping in 20 percent, or $60,000.
Other funding streams for the study include state funding and developer funding for the project, although Ashley did not view either of those as promising.
“You know we are seeing a severe slow down in state funding of transportation projects, and I would not be hopeful that we could get this covered through those programs,” she explained. “It is equally unlikely we would get a developer in that would want to take on an expense of this magnitude as part of developing this area.”
Councilman William Morgan agreed that this area was a rare opportunity for the city and that proceeding with this study was an important step to take.
“We have been talking about this for some time now,” he advised. “I think we all recognize the viability of this project. This is one of the best opportunities left on an interstate in the State of North Carolina. “We have had developers interested in this area but the problem was they couldn’t get there.”
Morgan reminded the current council that its predecessor gave unanimous approval for Ashley to seek this grant and budgeted $154,000 for its completion. But the current city match is only $60,000.
“That leaves us $90,000 to the good and this is a good starting point to get this done,” Morgan added. “I am suggesting, and I make a motion to go ahead with funding and accepting this grant and going forward with the feasibility study.”
The council agreed, approving the motion unanimously.
♦ Discussions also continued on the H-115 Text Amendment issue dealing with the Shelton Avenue Corridor project, which includes Shelton Avenue from Garner Bagnal Boulevard to Amity Hill Road. The council began discussions last month about granting the area a 25 percent expansion of businesses that were grandfathered in as a non-conforming use in that area. That 25 percent would include both interior expansion of the building as well as providing additional parking. Any new business opening in the area would have to conform to all new restrictions but non-conforming businesses grandfathered in would be allowed to continue operation and expand to give new growth to the area.
Even with the proposed expansion, Councilman Steve Johnson believes that more should be done to lift restrictions to business in that area.
“I don’t like approving this because I don’t think it’s enough but I will to allow for J.W. Enterprises to make the expansion we agreed to let him do,” Johnson explained. “But I think this is an area we need to revisit to take a look at the restrictions we have in place here. I know personally that my business has suffered because of this and I believe that we have regulated business right off the shelf in this area because we are prohibiting growth.”
Several other council members agreed, stating that the very people these restrictions were designed to protect don’t agree with them.
“I have talked to many property owners in this area and they all hate the restrictions in place,” Councilman John Staford said. “I agree that this needs to be revisited and I would like to see even more expansion than the 25 percent we are discussing. I would agree to as much as 50 percent expansion and we need to look at lifting the existing restrictions.”
Council voted to agree to a 35 percent expansion allowance, which would include parking, but the change in terms required that the issue be re-advertised and again scheduled for public hearing. The public hearing was set, with the first reading being October 19 at the next scheduled council meeting.
♦ Mayor Costi Kutteh also made proclamations for both Public Power Week and National Fire Prevention week, both being October 4-10. He encouraged appreciation for the public power employees and the work done and pride in the city run electrical utilities in the country as well as encouraging people in the fire safety proclamation to never leave items cooking on the stove unattended.
♦ The Mayor also congratulated Morgan for his recent appointment to the Legislative Policy Committee, which sorted through all policy requests of all other municipalities around the state and made decisions on policies most beneficial to all municipalities.
“We want to congratulation Councilman Morgan on his appointment and thank him for his willingness to serve our community in this capacity,” Kutteh said. “It is quite an honor.”