BY DEBBIE PAGE
Three members of the Troutman Town Council present for a special called meeting on Friday afternoon were unable to overturn an earlier vote by the full council to delay the public hearing and consideration of the proposed 1.7-million-square-foot Troutman Logistics project to the December 9 meeting.
Members Felina Harris and Eddie Nau were unable to attend Friday’s meeting.
Town Manager Ron Wyatt detailed for the other council members the landowner and developer issues created by delaying the vote. The sale of several pieces of land within the proposed site were scheduled to close after the originally planned November council consideration.
Additionally, a major entity interested in the site, along with two other locations, for a distribution center threatened to drop the Troutman site from consideration if the vote was delayed to its December meeting.
“Time is of the essence,” said Wyatt.
Council member Paul Henkel, who proposed the delay during the regular October council meeting after phone calls from concerned citizens, said it would be a disservice to the citizens if the council returned to the November meeting date.
Henkel said it was wise to take time to carefully consider a project of this magnitude and its impact — positive or negative — and to slow things down. Rushing through this large project without considering citizens’ traffic and infrastructure concerns would be wrong, he argued.
“We need to help people feel more comfortable and heard,” said Henkel, who worried that residents would see the project as some “smoke-filled back room” decision.
“In good conscience, I cannot at this time, agree to change the date from December to November,” he said.
Wyatt commented that all property owners directly affected by the site, as required by state statute, were notified by letter of the community meeting on the project on October 11.
Henkel made a motion to leave the project consideration date on December 9 and to direct the staff to have a second community meeting sometime in November, posting notices of the gathering in several media outlets and town outlets to assure widespread notice.
Council member George Harris said he would support Henkel’s motion because he had earlier voted to agree with the change to the December meeting.
Council member Sally Williams said she had had more calls questioning the delay rather than opposing the Troutman Logistics Project. One caller also implied the delay was because of the upcoming election.
Henkel strongly denied politics had anything to do with his motion to change the date at the October meeting or to keep the December date at this special meeting. However, Williams pointed out the November 2 election would be complete before either council meeting date.
Saying he had loved this community since moving here in 1973, Henkel said, “If anyone thinks this is about the election, that is a serious error.”
“I am doing what I feel is in the best interests of town citizens and the community at large,” he added.
Whether he wins or loses the election, Henkel said he wants people to have confidence in the Town Council and its decisions.
After Mayor Teross Young consulted Town Attorney Gary Thomas about absent members’ effect on voting, Thomas said the state statute said they would just have no input.
The mayor and Wyatt also both noted they had received calls from project representatives saying the project may be completely cancelled if the council voted to delay consideration to the December council meeting.
The mayor then called the motion to question, which passed 2-1, with Williams dissenting.
After the vote, Wyatt said if the Troutman Logistics Project is not canceled and pulled for consideration altogether after the council’s delay, the staff will schedule a community meeting in November, followed by a December 9 public hearing and possible vote.
The community can also voice its opinions during the Planning and Zoning meeting on Monday, October 25, at 7 p.m. if the project is not removed from the agenda.