BY DEBBIE PAGE
Troutman Town Council members are having second thoughts about a recent change to the Unified Code of Development.
During Monday pre-agenda meeting, the council voted unanimously to begin the process of repealing the text amendment after considering concerns expressed by Iredell County commissioners and town residents.
At its November 7 meeting, the council passed a text amendment allowing truck maintenance and parking in heavy industrial zoning in the town limits, a change initiated following the request of a business looking to set up such an operation on a piece of property near the fairgrounds.
In the interim, council members discovered the property in question was much closer to the fairgrounds than they believed. It is actually adjacent to Iredell County EMS station on Murdock Road where fairground event attendees now park.
Councilwoman Sally Williams asked Town Planner George Berger and Town Attorney Gary Thomas about the feasibility of repealing the text amendment in light of this new information.
Several county commissioners lamented losing this potential piece of property for potential fairground expansion and improvements, in which the council pledged to assist in a June resolution presented to commissioners.
Recognizing “the benefit of such a property and event space” in its corporate limits and the revenue and visitors that it brings, the resolution stated the town had a “vested interest in the future” of the property.
In the resolution, the council expressed its desire to see the fairgrounds become a “multipurpose venue and focal point of a heavily-traveled commercial corridor,” pledging consideration of both monetary and non-monetary support to make that vision a reality.
Berger said a repeal is possible, but Thomas warned that the town needs to research whether the company, Gaines Express, has a “vested interest” in the property, meaning that the company has expended funds based on the council’s November UDO change.
If so, the council cannot rescind the text amendment without the threat of possible legal action by the company to recover its investment and possible damages.
Henkel felt caught between competing issues, citing the economic and community benefit to expand and improve the fairgrounds and the potential of upsetting an employer who could bring new jobs to the community as well as the property owner, who has made a large investment in Troutman.
The problem is not the text amendment or the type of business but rather the location of the property, added Henkel. Berger noted that staff presented several other locations to Gaines Express, which were rejected.
Berger and Interim Town Manager Jim Freeman are investigating the situation and will report back to council on Thursday night, at which time members can start the repeal process or drop the repeal request if the company already has a vested interest.
Finance Director Steve Shealy is working to get the word out to town residents that Benfield Sanitation, in compliance with N.C. Division of Waste Management changes, will no longer recycle glass. Only plastic with the #1 or #2 symbol, metal and aluminum, flattened cardboard and cartons, and paper (non-shredded) are recyclable.
Benfield cautions that any type of glass, plastic bags or wrap, clothing, paper towels, shredded paper, styrofoam, syringes, batteries, paint, hazardous chemicals, or food waste are not recyclable.
When the new UDO was approved in January of last year, a text amendment passed in September of 2016 regulating the size of political signage in residential areas was omitted.
Councilman Paul Bryant asked that council quickly add this long-debated amendment to the UDO since a national primary and election are on the horizon. The 2016 text amendment limited residential political signs to four square feet in area and 42 inches in height.
Commercial and non-residential properties and “gateway” roads (Highway 21, Wagner Street, Old Mountain Road, Murdock Road, and Talley Street) can have signs not exceeding 32 square feet in area and no more than six feet in height. All signs must removed by seven days after the election.
Berger agreed to start the text amendment process to amend the UDO.
Councilman Eddie Nau brought up the question of the funding and the number of school resource officers in Troutman, a topic he focused on during in his campaign for the council seat.
Nau questioned the amount of funding that Troutman spent on SROs for students in the community’s schools since most of the children live in the county, not the town limits. Town residents whose children attend Iredell Charter Academy also expressed concerns that their children did not get a requested Troutman SRO.
Nau also asked why county commissioners provided funding for officers in county elementary schools while ignoring students at Troutman Elementary.
Noting the council unanimously supports the best protection for the community’s children, Bryant asked for staff to get the total costs for providing an SRO, including salary, equipment, and vehicle.
Bryant believes the number of county children in the town’s schools should become a negotiating point with the county commissioners and the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education.
Shealy noted the town has no specific contract to provide SROs, just a basic agreement with the entities involved.
After a few tweaks to the proposed advertisement, the council approved the publishing of its search criteria for a new town manager. The council will spend approximately $750 of its $6,500 search budget to advertise the position on several association websites that span the country.
The council’s goal is to hire a highly qualified manager in April.
The council voted to add Williams to the manager search committee to replace former councilwoman Jan Huffman.
The council’s annual retreat will be Friday, February 28, at a location to be determined. The retreat will begin at 9 a.m.
Several other mini retreats will be planned on specific topics, including economic development.
THURSDAY NIGHT AGENDA
The council has a light agenda Thursday night, including consideration of:
♦ A proposed text amendment to the UDO;
♦ Reappointment of Robert Bobinski and Mark Michel to the Design Review Board;
♦ Appointment of Jan Huffman to the Board of Adjustment; and
♦ ABC Store and Troutman Fire Department Quarterly Reports.