BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council on Monday began the process of updating the town’s Future Land Use Map in the face of the rapid growth facing the community. Members also discussed raising fees for town services after holding the cost for years for garbage, recycling, and leaf and limb pick-up.
FUTURE LAND USE MAP
Town Planner Lynne Hair presented a plan for updating the town’s 2018 Future Land Use Plan after the hastening need for revision arose during February’s Strategic Planning Session. The plan is normally updated every five years, but with the proposed 800-acre Barium Springs/Children’s Hope Alliance property development and other projects looming, council members felt the earlier review was necessary.
Town Manager Ron Wyatt noted that the property has been sold and will be developed under Troutman’s rules, noting that he did not believe Statesville would try to intervene since the property, with the exception of one small area, is within the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and Statesville has little legal standing to claim authority.
Since the property is contiguous to the town and serves as the gateway, Wyatt said Troutman’s involvement will be important in creating something that will enhance the community, noting the property will be developed regardless of which municipality has zoning authority.
The map revision focus areas will include a reassessment of the location of commercial and industrial areas and provide the town a map that reflects the shift of commercial and industrial development of interchange areas at Interstate 77 Exits 42 and 45.
The review will also analyze the Barium Springs/CHA property area and how that will fit into the land use pattern of the town and will additionally assess residential densities in relation to the availability of utilities.
The revised map will provide planning staff with a plan that reflects the goals of the community. Council can consult the map to make educated land use decisions.
The revision process will begin in April with a council subcommittee of two council members, George Harris and Jerry Oxsher, who will serve in an advisory capacity to the planning staff as they discuss initial revision goals.
The subcommittee will also appoint an advisory committee to provide feedback and input and later create a stakeholders group of local businesses and large property owners for additional feedback.
The advisory committee will have at least one elected official and planning board member, four town residents, and two ETJ residents.
The community will have the opportunity to make comments on land use goals and changes they favor to the map at at public input sessions.
The timeline includes initial subcommittee meetings in April, the advisory committee kickoff in May, and the first public input meeting to gather residents’ comments scheduled for June. The stakeholders meeting will be in July, with a second public input meeting in August for comments on a draft version of the map.
After the final community input, the revised draft map will be presented to council in September for its comments, followed by a public hearing and potential map adoption at the October council meeting.
During and after the map revision process, the planning department will also update the Unified Code of Ordinance to reflect any goals or changes necessitated by the future land use map update.
FEE INCREASES CONSIDERED
At the council’s second strategic planning session in early March, Town Finance Director Justin Mundy noted that the town is losing approximately $200,000 annually because collected recycling fees only amount to $36,000 ($1.80 per customer), while trash/recycle pickup budget is between $240,000 and $250,000.
Leaf, limb and snow removal services are an additional $140,000 per year.
This $1.80 fee was first assessed 30 years ago, when recyclables were still sold to recoup garbage costs, and the town never raised the fee after costs continually increased over the decades.
“If something’s $200,000 out of kilter, that warrants your attention. We need a self-paying system,” Wyatt said in March. He noted costs will continue to go up with additional homes and ever-increasing service costs.
Hickory charges $25 per month for trash/recycling services, with other nearby municipalities charging $10 to $20 monthly, although Statesville is phasing out its garbage fee over the next two years.
Municipalities are required by state statute to provide garbage, water, sewer, and public safety services, but services like leaf and limb pickup, recycling collection, and snow removal are optional.
Wyatt and Mundy suggested raising the $1.80 monthly fee to $7.64 to recoup part of the cost of providing these services.
Mundy estimated to recover all the actual costs for these services, the fee would have to rise to $13.19 per household. Wyatt said such a steep increase would be difficult for older residents on fixed incomes.
Wyatt also noted that EnergyUnited recently advised the town of a 7 percent rise in water costs, partly due to increased operational and employee expenses. The town has absorbed water cost increases over the past years, but this sharp rise will most likely be passed on to residents.
“The cost of all services is simply going up. Our cost for employees has gone astronomical,” commented Wyatt, pointing to the competitive hiring and employee retention environment.
Wyatt recounted one instance of offering a public works job to a candidate at $32,000. The person instead chose the Town of Mooresville’s public works department, which offered a $39,000 entry slot with a promise of a promotion and increase to $42,000 in 90 days.
County tax re-evaluation will also occur next year, creating more possible increases on all county citizens.
The council will delve more deeply into this fee issue at its April 19 budget planning session and look for solutions to make the service self-sustaining. The meeting, open to the public, will begin at 8:30 a.m.