BY STACIE LETT CAIN
The method used to voice their opposition during a public hearing at this week’s Statesville City Council may have been unorthodox, but residents who live along Bell Farm Road were able let the council know exactly how they feel about a proposed annexation in the area.
Due to crowd restrictions imposed by Gov. Roy Cooper, the council is not able to have public meetings. Monday’s meeting was via conference call, but residents were allowed to submit comments in advance of the public hearing in writing or by calling in.
Through emails, texts and phone calls, opponents of a request for the city to annex eight acres off Vance PO Road stressed that they want the area to maintain its rural character.
“Our family raises crops and beef cattle on this land, for twenty years before that we had a dairy farm,” Nina Bell said in an email to the mayor and council. “We stayed in this area because it is a rural, family farm area. It is a buffer between the city and the county and we have vowed to keep multiple family dwellings out. We fear this opens the door to more developments just like this.”
The application for annexation was filed for the purpose of building a senior living facility with residential units. The application was filed by Landon Green, L.P., acting as agent for the owners of the property, located adjacent to 110 Vance PO Road.
But the development has met with resistance not just because of what it would mean to the area, but what could follow it.
Heather and Brad Brady said their family had owned farm land for over 90 years in that area. They worried that the proposed annexation and rezoning would create an opportunity for more similar developments.
“Allowing this annexation would only make way for more affordable multi-family development in this area and we don’t want to see that,” they wrote in an email. “We want to be able to keep this land rural and in our family. Please do not allow this annexation.”
Nathan Duggins, a Greensboro attorney who represents some opponents of the annexation, spoke via telephone to the council. He questioned whether the city had provided proper notice of the hearing.
“I am not meaning to get anyone in trouble, but I do not think the seven-day notice requirement was met for this particular hearing,” Duggins stated. “It is also my understanding that routine matters such as this were not to be dealt with during this time — that only urgent matters should be dealt with via these means. This should have waited until a routine public hearing could be held.”
City Attorney Leah Messick agreed to some extent that public hearings are designed to bring people together to meet to discuss issues and that under these circumstances this method was only appropriate if all parties were in agreement.
“Because all parties to this are not in agreement it would seem the conservative approach would be to continue the public hearing until such a time as all of us can gather to discuss this,” Messick said.
The council agreed and moved the first reading of the annexation request to the first council’s first meeting in June.
In other business, Mayor Costi Kutteh again encouraged people to self-report to the 2020 Census and acknowledged that participation by Statesville residents is not as high as he would like to see.
“We are up to 50 percent self-reporting and that is better than where we were, but we are still behind the surrounding areas,” Kutteh explained. “Mooresville is at 58 percent and Troutman is at 62 percent. The number of people who self-report is more important this year than ever before because we cannot go door to door to report. So much depends on these numbers and we really need to get as many people as we can to self-report.”