BY DEBBIE PAGE
Facing a packed chamber with 15 attendees overflowing to standing room only in the lobby, the Troutman Town Council unanimously approved the Troutman Logistics project as well as four more expansions to residential development and town limits during a nearly five-hour meeting on Thursday night.
At the beginning of the meeting, council members voted to adjust the agenda to vote on the Troutman Logistics and other new business items before old business. They then voted to limit the scheduled nine public hearings on the evening’s agenda to a 15-minute presentation per applicant followed by a total of 30 minutes each from attendees for and against each project.
After the meeting, several citizens questioned why new council member Jerry Oxsher was not sworn in at the beginning of the meeting as in the past.
Town Attorney Gary Thomas released a statement Friday, explaining that “a combination of the charter of the town and general statutes say that the organizational meeting and swearing in is to be at the regular business meeting in December. Until then, the current council continues to hold their offices. The current council has control of the agenda for the meeting until the swearing in occurs.”
Town Manager Ron Wyatt said that multiple closed sessions had occurred on the agenda’s projects, during which information was shared to which Oxsher was not privy. Asking Oxsher to vote on these agenda items without full knowledge of each project would have been unfair to both Oxsher and taxpayers, added Wyatt.
Before making this decision, Wyatt consulted Professor Frayda S. Bluestein at the UNC School of Government, who advised, “Outgoing board members remain in office and retain all of their authority until the newly-elected members take office.”
“Once the local board of elections certifies the results of the election, the winners are officially elected. They take office at the time and place set out in the statutes.”
Bluestein said the state statute requires that cities must set the date and time of an “organizational meeting,” no later than the first regular meeting of the council in December. At the organizational meeting, the newly elected mayor or council members then officially qualify when they take the oath of office.
The statute (https://www.ncleg.gov/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_160A/GS_160A-68.pdf) does not state at what point in the meeting the oaths should take place.
Also, as with any other meeting, the outgoing board has the ultimate legal authority to set the agenda for the meeting at which the new members are to be sworn in, said Bluestein.
After council approved annexation of the Highway 21 property near Ostwalt-Amity Road, Town Planner Lynne Hair presented the Troutman Logistics project with staff recommendation for rezoning approval to heavy industrial from the current Iredell County residential agricultural zoning designation.
Hair also shared a smart growth comparison chart with a possible 300 single-family homes currently allowed on the site, noting a near doubling of tax revenue for the town, about 300 fewer vehicle trips, storm water measures, less water and sewer demand, and no school impacts if the 1.7-million-square-foot distribution center project is instead approved.
Matt Prince of TPA Group and Austin Watts and Joe Wilson of Kimley-Horn then presented the $150 million Troutman Logistic project to council and answered questions about the project through the first two hours of the meeting.
The 159-acre site was turned down by the Troutman Planning and Zoning Board in October after intense community opposition surrounding traffic concerns and the impacts on neighboring homes.
The site was selected because of its 0.6 mile proximity to Interstate 77. Prince said the project would add $2 million in tax revenue each year, with about $900,000 of that going to the town. The current county tax revenue for the property is $20,000.
The project is expected to bring 400 to 900 jobs, based on the uses of those companies looking at the facility as a possible location thus far, according to Prince.
Developers will add multiple turn lanes to several roads, new signage, and a traffic signal to the site entrance on Highway 21/South Main Street, which now will handle truck traffic only. The entrance will have two ingress and egress lanes to assist truck traffic flow. A “no-right turn” sign will also be installed at the truck exit.
Auto access would now be only via Oswalt-Amity and Perry Roads, per the NCDOT traffic study findings. Prince noted that the signal would require NCDOT approval and that the project would not be built if traffic signal approval was denied.
The traffic impact study stated that the level of traffic service, with these mitigations, will be the same or improved, according to the NCDOT. Prince said developers are committed to partnering with the town and NCDOT to continue addressing traffic solutions and improvements.
The two-structure project would conform to all town building requirements. Conditions include a single-story building height maximum of 95 feet, though developers currently expect it will only be 50 feet tall. They added the 95 maximum to the proposed site plan for flexibility to meet any tenant’s needs, if identified before construction begins.
A maximum of 480 docks, 500 truck spaces, and employee parking are possible on the site.
Developers are consulting the Army Corps of Engineers on a plan to avoid impacts on the stream running through the property, and the site plan includes storm water measures, culverts over streams, and a 50-foot undisturbed buffer on both sides of the stream.
Prince said developers will install both a berm, landscaping, and a fence along Levo Road homes to address residents’ concerns about noise, pollution, and unsightliness.
Several spoke in favor of the project via email, with one citing the new turning lanes, traffic and other road improvements, and the positive tax impact.
An anonymous small business owner sent a written comment, touting the new jobs and increased patronage of area businesses by employees. The writer added that residents should fight for the logistics center because it was “good for the town.”
Three speakers also praised these benefits, with one saying “this was the highest and best use of this area” near the interstate and that plenty of other residential land is available. This project will be “an engine” for the town’s economy and “future councils will thank you for this money in the budget.”
Mark Cash, who has family roots in the community, added that the main thoroughfares through the town have historically drawn industrial interests. Though truck traffic concerns are legitimate, Cash believes this positive addition to the tax base will allow Troutman to continue to create a beautiful town without raising property taxes.
However, opponents cited traffic, lack of infrastructure, wildlife, erosion and environmental impacts,“a gross deviation” with the Future Land Use Plan, and the estimated 1,000 trucks per day clogging Highway 21, a number estimated by developers at a past project community meeting.
Mark Taylor, a traffic engineer with 20 years experience and a Planning and Zoning Board member, said developers failed to provide traffic generation information the board asked for. He noted the traffic study evaluated the area for a general warehouse, not a High Q logistics center.
Taylor’s research indicated High Q volume generated per day would actually be 13,906 vehicles, many more than the 2,700 that they now state. The traffic trip distribution plan also calls for 10 percent of trucks to turn north through town.
“The math doesn’t work,” he said.
Taylor also pointed out the 100-foot turn lanes will only hold one tractor trailer.
Taylor does not oppose the project, only the location. He suggested land on Julian Place, which has a traffic light and intersection that connects directly to I-77 or behind Lowe’s, which also has a traffic light and interstate connection, as much better sites.
In Concord, Taylor pointed out developers building five warehouse buildings, adding up to 1.755 million square feet, were required to build a four-lane divided highway to Poplar Tent Road and interstate access. A 862,500-square-foot Amazon warehouse at I-485 and I-85 also required two truck entrances to avoid traffic backups.
As an engineer, Taylor said he is sworn to uphold public safety. “This is an egregious act,” he told the council.
Levo Drive resident Dora Spangler said her research revealed that tractor trailers emit 90-120 decibels of noise, which the berm will only reduce by two decibels. She also worried about lung cancer, dangers from diesel fumes, and the severe impact on her property value.
After Mayor Teross Young closed the public hearing, Sally Williams made the motion to approve the rezoning, seconded by Paul Henkel, which the council passed 4-0. Council member Eddie Nau was absent.
Williams commented that she was elected by taxpayers and whether she personally likes a project or not, she did what she felt was in the best interest of the citizens she represents.
Council also unanimously approved the Rocky Creek mixed-use development. Prestige Development requested that council members annex and conditionally rezone a nearly 54-acre parcel on the west side of Highway 21, just north of the Barkdale/Oswalt-Amity intersection, to build 95 homes, 169 townhomes, and develop nearly two acres of commercial outparcel after Planning and Zoning Board members denied recommendation in November.
The town’s Future Land Use Plan for the area, now zoned with a county residential agriculture designation, indicates it as appropriate for medium density residential, single family homes. Planning Director Lynne Hair recommended the rezoning, even though the 4.98 proposed density exceeded the three to four homes per acre the land-use plan recommended for the parcel.
Hair said the townhomes would be affordable for teachers, police officers, and young couples who are often priced out of single-family homes.
The traffic impact analysis recommendations for the project included a Flower House Loop/Houston Road combined intersection with Highway 21 (scheduled to begin in 2023) and multiple turning lanes on Highway 21/Main Street, Barkdale, Oswalt-Amity, and Houston Roads, and Flower House Loop.
Steve Bailey of Prestige Development said larger buffers were added in response to input at the community meeting. Developers added a 100-foot buffer and will build either a fence or berm, as desired by the owner, on the boundary with a nearly 50-year-old chicken farm. Environmentally sensitive areas and a stream would be left undisturbed, he said.
Henkel noted that protecting the poultry farmer’s livelihood and the health, safety, and production of his chickens was important.
Bailey promised varying architectural styles on both homes and townhomes with superior interiors featuring hardwoods, open concepts, and high quality baths and kitchens. Twenty acres are set aside for open space, and an HOA will maintain the development’s standards. Build-out is expected in five to six years.
Several residents objected to the traffic generated and the higher density than indicated on the land-use plan
Seth Fargher reminded council of their rejection of Wagner Street homes last month as being in the “wrong place, wrong time” and the project’s incongruity with the Future Land Use Plan. With the just approved warehouse and 95 apartments now under construction at Oswalt-Amity intersection, Fargher called the area a “pinch point” for traffic.
Fargher also spoke about the construction noise being a stressor on the chickens, which can affect a long-time farming family’s income and the eggs that feed the 1.2 million people per year. Fargher also worried future neighbors might later try to shut down the farm because of odors or noise.
After the close of the public hearing, the council voted unanimously to approve the project, with Williams making the motion and Henkel seconding.
Council members also unanimously approved the long-delayed Winecoff Village project, approved by the Planning and Zoning Board for 100 homes in June. The project was delayed because of wetland issues that required a new site plan with a reduction of 10 homes.
TruNorth Homes requested a change from suburban and town residential to conditional mixed residential, as well as annexation to the town, to accommodate its new site plan for a 40-acre, 90-home development.
The revised development’s 2.17 homes per acre density is well below the maximum 12 units per acre allowed in this zoning.
The development will also add street connections to the 165-home Marley Jaye development, now called Norwood Walk, approved by Town Council in December of 2019.
The development will feature 1,400-square-foot one-story or 1,900-square-foot two-story homes, with facades featuring a variety of materials, including masonry, brick, stone, stucco, wood siding or singles, metal, and Everlast vinyl, a new product which has a lifetime guarantee.
Each home will have a one- or two-car garage, and each lot has a two-tree minimum. Electric service will be underground, and water and sewer will be connected to Troutman’s system.
The traffic impact analysis requires developers to widen Winecoff Street from eight to 12 feet from South Eastway to the development entrance, with right-of-way to build already in place. The developers must also add right turn lanes from South Main to Eastway as well as left and right turn lanes at both neighborhood entrances.
Developers set aside 40 percent of the property for open space. Sidewalks will be built on each side of the street, as well as an additional 10-foot greenway section by the creek that will eventually connect into the town’s greenway system to enhance walkability.
TruNorth representative Paul Pennell noted a change from a 10-foot to six-foot side yard that allows architects to add a bay window and front porch to the facade and creates a smaller yard to maintain, a plus for many homebuyers.
Only one adjoining property owner voiced opposition, asking to “minimize” the project.
Henkel made the motion to approve the project, with Williams seconding.
Council members also unanimously approved:
♦ Annexation and rezoning of 6.38 acres for up to seven homes off Honeycutt Road.
♦ Rezoning of nearly 2 acres at 403 Lytton Street from central business to conditional central business to facilitate building 24 townhomes in phase 2 of the existing 6 unit Lytton Street Townhomes project, located to the south of this property.
♦ A resolution to apply for CRTPO funds to replace the outdated 2009 Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
♦ Purchase of body cameras and in-car cameras to replace outdated and malfunctioning equipment for the Troutman Police Department.
♦ The 2022 Meeting schedule.
♦ A wastewater agreement with CHA and Iredell County.
♦ Paul Henkel as Mayor Pro Tempore.