The Statesville City Council took what it acknowledged were long-overdue steps toward honoring an area of Statesville’s unique history on Monday.

Mayor Costi Kutteh announced that the city has filed an application for a study area grant to recognize the Green Street/Garfield Street area as a significant historical district and seeking state and federal designations. The council also issued a proclamation declaring the area as historically significant.

Lisa Mozer has been a champion for preserving the area’s history, and she made emotional remarks on Monday following the issue of the proclamation, describing the rich and vital history of the area, including an historic school.

“With the Billingsley School, a black school established in 1906, the individuals who raised the funds to build that school were likely born in 1860 or 1870. Many were the first generation living outside enslavement, and the first thing they did was build a school,” she said. “I remember holding the hand of my great-grandmother when I was a young child. My great-grandmother was among that first generation living here outside enslavement. So please know, we value our freedom.”

Both Mozer and Kutteh noted this is just the beginning of what has been an ongoing effort.

“Lisa came back to our community after she retired, and she saw that there were areas of her community that had been forgotten, and she began making us aware,” Kutteh said in thanking Mozer for her efforts alongside other members of the community.

In part, the proclamation reads, “The history of Statesville’s African American Community has not been meaningfully shared or recognized, and there are numerous locations that greatly enrich Statesville’s story following the Civil War, the Jim Crow ear and Civil Rights Movement … and for hundreds of years Statesville’s African American community has contributed greatly to the City’s growth and prosperity.”

Among the sites located in the area are Mt. Pleasant A.M.E. Zion Church, the home of Dr. Robert S. and Mary Charlton Holliday; The Billingsley Memorial Academy; Morningside Academy; and Green Street Cemetery.

Proposed 244-lot development

The council held a public hearing on a proposed 244-lot single-family residence subdivision to be developed by D.R. Horton along the north side of East Greenbriar Road, between industrial Drive and South Greenbriar Road. During the hearing, residents in the area expressed concerns about traffic impact and loss of privacy.

Homeowner Ed Cothren shared his worries about traffic, including the impact on a nearby assisted- living facility, Cornerstone Church and school. “With this many houses, I would think there would be more than 200 cars going in and out,” he said.

Multiple council members also expressed strong concerns about needing better ingress and egress and the need for an N.C. Department of Transportation traffic impact study. The council called on the developer to work with the city to find solutions to the issue, and Kutteh noted that the current plan is not adequate.

D.R. Horton is requesting to rezone the 87.39-acre parcel from R-A (Residential-Agricultural) District and R-8 MFM (Medium Density Multi-Family/Manufactured Housing Residential) District to R-8 CZ Cluster Subdivision (Medium Density Single-Family Residential Conditional Zoning) District. The site is in the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction would require annexation.

The council voted to approve the first reading of the rezoning request, with amendments that include two-car garages and a pool for the community, and council members made it clear that improvement to ingress and egress is crucial to passage at second reading.

Vance Hotel

The City Council will hold a public hearing on May 16 before making a final decision on approving a Master Development Agreement to sell the Vance Hotel to Michigan-based developer The Rainier Group for $47,000.

The developer plans for 60 hotel rooms, along with structural and aesthetic renovations to public spaces, including the restaurant, lobby and bar. Also included would be renovation or replacement of the parking deck to increase the number of parking spaces. The city will lease 20 of the parking spaces from the hotel for public parking, including four designated handicap spaces.

Recently, significant damage to the hotel’s roof was discovered, causing questions over who would be responsible for the cost of repairs. However, the developer has indicated a willingness to move forward with the needed repairs and the project.

Other announcements

During the meeting, Mayor Kutteh reported that the council and city staff have decided to begin planning for expansion of the city’s police department, noting it shows the city’s “cooperative spirit” to make improvements. The city has already purchased land around the existing police station in anticipation of needing an expansion of the facility.

Kutteh also shared that an advisory committee of students, created in the wake of Ah’Miyahh Howell’s death by gun violence on June 28, 2021, has set a goal to build a teen center for the community. Representatives include eighth-graders from each of the five public middle schools. A talent show will be held June 2 at the Statesville Civic Center. “It’s an opportunity for them to get together and share their ideas and share their talent. It will showcase students from our community,” he said.

In addition, Kutteh announced that an agreement has been reached with the state to repair a sinkhole in the area of South Statesville known as “The Flats.” Repairs are anticipated to take a few months.

Consent agenda

• The council approved a request from Waves Entertainment and All-American Stage, Sound and Lights LLC to host two Second Saturday Festivals at Martin Luther King Jr. Park and for the City of Statesville be an official co-sponsor and provide in-kind services.

• The council approved Work Authorization No. 20 for Parrish and Partners in the amount of $95,916 to update the current Airport Layout Plan to include a published clearway to the end of Runway 28; and, consider using future Non-Primary Entitlement Funds which will cover 90% of the cost of the study when funds become available.

Proclamations and recognitions

The council also:

• Honored Statesville Community Appearance Commission Chair Anne Rhyne with the annual Mayor’s Cup Award. “Anne has served us faithfully and conscientiously on the Statesville Community Appearance Commission. She has seen the organization evolve into what it is today — a proponent of having the finest, cleanest, most progressive community in terms of its appearance. … The Streetscape and Sculpture Garden are examples of her legacy.”

• Issued a proclamation in support of the Statesville NAACP Freedom Fund 2022 campaign. The proclamation states in part, “We celebrate the 88th Anniversary of the Statesville Branch, your support enables us to maintain a strong presence and impact on the quality of life in Iredell County; and do hereby proclaim support for the ‘Statesville Freedom Fund Banquet and Awards Program Fundraiser’ in the City of Statesville and recognize the efforts and achievements of this organization in the Statesville community.”

• Issued a proclamation in support of Arbor Day. The proclamation reads in part, “Statesville has been recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day foundation for more than 30 years because of its commitment to planting and caring for its urban tree canopy.”

• Recognized that the City of Statesville received the “Advancing Technology Award” from the North Carolina League of Municipalities Local Leadership Foundation in recognition of Statesville’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) initiative. Statesville’s AMI project has involved upgrading all City water and electric meters, replacing the old meters with highly accurate, secure, state-of-the art metering technology, also called “smart meters.”

• Recognized that the City of Statesville Electric Utilities received the Public Power of Awards of Excellence in all five key areas of service, making it among the top performers in the state for 2021.

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