BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council has a full agenda on Thursday night, including consideration of a proposal to allowing murals in additional zoning areas. Action on several other agenda items, including a rezoning request for an MI Homes development facing considerable opposition from nearby residents, is expected to be delayed.
Developers have asked council to delay the consideration of the annexation and rezoning request by MI Homes to build 77 homes on nearly 50 acres off Autumn Leaf Road (adjacent to the Quail Haven subdivision) until the October 12 council meeting.
The consideration of the development agreement between the approved Wakefield Village mixed-use project, the Barium Springs Home for Children, and the Town of Troutman is also being postponed to allow the Children’s Hope Alliance board more time to examine the agreement. Council consideration is now expected at the October 12 council meeting.
The Wakefield development plans include 750 homes in an over 55 age-restricted Trilogy type community, including luxury amenities, on the west side of Highway 21 and 650 single-family homes, 400 townhomes, 250 age-restricted apartments, and 750 apartments on the east side.
The project is also expected to create 1,500 jobs through the new businesses located in the commercial sections of Wakefield. The commercial buildings are planned to be roughly three times that of Birkdale in Huntersville, with 600,000 square feet of commercial space planned on 57 acres (about 20 percent more land area than Birkdale).
Council members also plan to delay appointment of an inside alternate member of the Planning and Zoning Board for a three-year term because the town has not properly notified the community about the open seat.
Town Manager Ron Wyatt advised council to treat all open seats the same, regardless of whether a board member whose term is expiring is willing to be reappointed, by advertising the opening and then selecting the best qualified applicant to avoid the appearance of picking a candidate without opening the process and to encourage more people to get engaged.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OBSERVANCE APPROVED
Emily Cowan from My Sister’s House requested that the council allow her organization to tie purple ribbons on trees and lamp posts on the greenway in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
Cowan said the project will honor those who lost their lives to domestic violence as well as to raise awareness with information cards about the services and help available in Iredell County for those experiencing domestic violence.
Council members unanimously approved the project, with the understanding that Cowan will work with Wyatt and Parks and Recreation Director Emily Watson to ensure the installation is attractive and does not add any burdens on staff who maintain the greenway.
“We want it to be a asset, not a distraction,” said Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel.
Wyatt noted that the council might want to consider limiting such extended time greenway projects (over a week) to a few meaningful ones, noting that the town already allows child abuse prevention and Memorial Day displays on the greenway in addition to town holiday displays.
On Thursday, the council will consider a text amendment to allow an expansion of the zoning areas in which murals are allowed in the Town of Troutman. Currently, murals are only allowed in the neighborhood center and central business zoning areas and conditionally in mixed-use districts.
The request for this text amendment was initiated by Mad Monkey Garage owner James Amico, who had a large mural painted on the building that he leases, only to discover that the mural is not allowed in areas with a heavy industrial zoning.
Because the mural is non-compliant, Amico is seeking the change to avoid having to paint over the artwork.
Kayla Watts, owner of Tails of Lake Norman, has a facility in central business zoning and joined the request because she also wants to paint a mural on a fence near her business.
The request is to amend Articles 6.2.1 and 6.2.2 of the Troutman UDO to allow wall murals as a permitted sign type in all heavy industrial and highway business districts in Troutman, not just at these two businesses.
The Planning Board recommended the change in August, with the caveat that the Design Review Board have design and content approval. However, in discussion about the amendment on Monday, Town Attorney Gary Thomas told the council that the town would be wading into constitutional issues.
Supreme Court rulings decree that the town cannot exercise control over content of a mural, only on the zoning area where murals are allowed and the dimensions of murals. The mural also has to be art with generic associated items but not direct advertising for the business itself.
Thomas warned that language used in the mural cannot be regulated and that allowed artwork could be borderline pornography. The Design Review Board cannot stop a mural that its members find objectionable because art cannot be regulated, the attorney said.
Wyatt noted that the topic is likely to be controversial on Thursday night since some citizens were complaining about the Mad Monkey mural as being “gaudy” and two of the building’s owners objected after seeing it and stated that they were not asked before the mural was painted.
Council member Eddie Nau was upset there was no penalty for violating the town ordinance and thought Amico should have to paint over the mural because it is illegal.
Council member Jerry Oxsher was concerned less concerned about the Mad Monkey mural than he was about allowing approximately 40 percent more of the town’s commercial and industrial property to add murals, which could get out of control quickly. “We would be opening up Highway 21 to paint buckets,” he said.
Oxsher noted both requesters are also renters, not building owners, and wondered if owners would even be amenable.
Town Planner Lynne Hair said the current mural rules are under the sign ordinance. If the town staff and council created a public art policy, Hair suggested they might have more content input, which Thomas will investigate.
Currently, for murals in allowed areas, Hair said that building owners only have to get a permit. There is no staff or council approval of content as long it meets size requirements and is not business advertising, but she noted that process could be changed as well in a public art policy.
Wyatt noted existing murals were restored or created in the currently allowed districts. He worried passing this text amendment could open Troutman to looking like a “carnival.”
DOLLAR GENERAL PURCHASE
On the consent agenda for Thursday is the acquisition of the current Dollar General property located at 144 South Main Street for $1.5 million and the approval to transfer capital reserve funds to the general fund account for recent property acquisitions.
The town wants to purchase the property as part of its long-range strategic plan to eventually reroute Wagner Street to that area of Highway 21 and then create a pedestrian plaza featuring local businesses and services along several blocks of Wagner Street up to the current intersection.
The town also purchased the Earl Carney Insurance building as part of this plan and will use it as a passport and administrative office in the interim.
The council will recognize Tania Trent as “Town of Troutman Employee of the Month” and hear the J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library quarterly report.
The council will also consider:
♦ Approval of a new ordinance prohibiting parking of vehicles In front yards on residentially zoned lots.
♦ An annexation request and a rezoning to highway business for Troutman Commercial Properties LLC for 7.5 acres at 709 South Main Street.
♦ A request by staff to pass a text amendment requiring a landscape berm on the perimeter of all new single-family residential subdivisions adjacent to a public street.
♦ Approval of the facade review for Autumn Leaf Apartments located at the corner of Perth Road and Autumn Leaf Road and for the Tractor Supply planned at 726 S. Main Street.
♦ Approval to the Rotation Wrecker Policy to set maximum prices and avoid possible gouging while ensuring proper compensation.
♦ A request by C & H Investment Holdings that fines levied in the amount of $300 for grass mowing violations on three vacant lots located on Rumple Street be waived.
♦ Setting an October 12 annexation hearing request by Jabula Properties for 3.5 acres at 269 Houston Road.
♦ Authorizing the town attorney to initiate eminent domain proceedings against Dependable Development Inc. at Sutter’s Mill/Westmoreland Road to obtain land for a sewer pump station. If approved, Thomas will obtain an appraisal and make an offer based on the appraisal. Wyatt said he, Thomas, and Town Engineer Benjie Thomas had made a total of eight attempts, including one by certified letter, to contact the company to purchase .17 acres for the pump station, but no response has been made.