BY DEBBIE PAGE
Troutman Town Council members on Monday discussed the need for Planning and Zoning Board members to undergo training to help the group navigate the heavy load of projects and rezoning cases that continue to come before the advisory board.
In addition to clarifying the role and limits of authority the board has under N.C. statutes, council member Paul Henkel discussed the need for the board to enforce decorum in meetings to prevent personal attacks on staff and elected officials in public hearings.
The board does not have the ability to go in closed session, to delay recommendations, or to require an attorney be present. It’s only role, according to Town Manager Ron Wyatt, is to look at the project and see if it meets the criteria dictated by the Future Land Use Map and the town’s Unified Development Ordinance.
Whether the town staff personally likes or dislikes a project should have no bearing on the rezoning process, the town manager explained. “If it fits those blocks, the staff is required to recommend it because it checks those blocks,” said Wyatt.
Their role is to let developers get the pulse of the community in public hearings and for planning board members to ask developers to address community concerns before the project reaches the council for final determination, according to Wyatt.
Wyatt said he appreciates the passion of the community and their voicing their opinions, but some individuals are behaving in a “ruthless” manner and treating every project as the “enemy.”
The council decided to make the planning board’s additional training mandatory. The training will occur at the planning board’s March 25 meeting. The council also decided that no future planning board members can serve on the board until the mandatory training is completed.
Wyatt suggested Town Attorney Gary Thomas attend the March 25 training, along with available council members, to iron out these issues.
“I truly think every one of them’s best interest and heart is to be better decision-makers for the town. It’s just that somebody’s got to be in charge that says, ‘Hey, follow the rules or you’re out and quit allowing the outbursts and the people talking trash.’ ”
“It’s going to continue to be a circus atmosphere until somebody says, ‘Here’s the rules. Follow them or there’s consequences for you all volunteering if you are not going to.’ ”
Henkel said the planning board has an important role and needs to function effectively.
Council member Eddie Nau suggested that a police officer be present to ensure proper behavior, protect staff and the planning board, and remove unruly people.
“I do not want to see (Town Planner) Lynne (Hair) and Andrew (Ventresca) be abused nor do I want to see our Planning and Zoning Board be abused,” Nau said.
Wyatt said the problem so far is not physical threat but more the combative attitudes of “agitators” and accusations of illegal activity if the staff or board disagrees with their point of view.
Speakers should speak once in a public hearing, not engage in back and forth at all, and not roam around the room talking to others. These requirements are outlined in the town’s public comment rules, Roberts’ Rules of Order, and in the planning board’s policies.
Nau said those engaging in such behavior should be removed for disorderly conduct.
Police Chief Josh Watson assured Nau that if Hair perceives an issue arising, he has officers in the building or nearby if help is needed.
Wyatt reported the owner of Mad Monkey Garage has conceded that the building’s mural is out of compliance. However, the owner asked for a fine suspension because the painter cannot paint over it until temperatures allow.
The council decided that would set a bad precedent and will continue with the fines, with the caveat that fines could be rescinded all or in part after compliance.
THURSDAY MEETING AGENDA
The following items are also on Thursday’s meeting agenda:
♦ A conditional zoning request by Nest Homes for the River Rock townhome community, planned for the 11.52 acres located at the northeast corner of Perth Road and Autumn Leaf Road from highway business to conditional mixed residential. The current zoning allows multi-family rental apartments on the site. The three- and four-bedroom townhomes, ranging from 1,500 to 2,200 square feet, would be offered in the $350,000 price range. The 24 buildings would contain three to eight units. The traffic impact study findings, conducted for the previous apartment project, are being reduced because of the townhome project’s lower impact.
♦ An annexation and rezoning request by C2C Land Development for 7.822 acres at 1250 Charlotte Highway from Iredell County residential agricultural highway business.
♦ An annexation and rezoning request by the Town of Troutman ABC Board for 7.6731 acres at 1270 Charlotte Highway from Iredell County residential agricultural to highway business.
♦ Approval request of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Morningstar Properties, LLC and the Town of Troutman regarding enhanced sewer infrastructure on its site in exchange for an economic incentive.
An annexation Request from BBC Rocky Creek, LLC, for 19.511 acres located off Byers Road.
♦ Approval requests for these additional 2023-2024 budget amendments, expected to be covered by incoming revenues, according to Finance Director Justin Mundy:
Cost of the town’s building renovations – $750,000
Purchase of the Dollar General Building – $1,500,000
East Church paving and restriping Lines – $130,000
Additional election cost – $1,130
Additional insurance cost for town property – $10,000
Additional Parks & Rec supplies – $25,000
Building expenditures at the Passport Office- $15,000
Departmental supplies and contracted services for the Police Department – $20,000
Additional police vehicles – $150,000
Equipment for Public Works (UF) – $150,000
Sewer inspections of town lines by KRG Utility (UF) – $182, 430
Settlement litigation (UF) – $10,425
Additional cost of water meters – $100,000
Additional cost of water – $150,000
♦ Approval request of Master Service Agreement for on-call transportation services between the Town and Kimley Horn and Associates, Inc., with compensation set at 1.15 times the cost of conducting each individual project order (IPO). With this “on-call’ assistance, the TIA process would change because the traffic study team would be working for the town instead of the developer, though the services are still paid for by the developer. This change would put more emphasis on ensuring town ordinances and interests (greenway, future land use map, bike/ped plans) are considered that NCDOT does not require.
♦ Consider appointment of Tonya Bartlett as an inside voting member filling the unexpired term of Kenneth Reid (Term expires 5-14-24).
♦ Public hearing date request for March 14 for annexation of 4.135 acres at 398 Hemi Drive.
♦ Quarterly reports: Troutman Fire Department, J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library, and ABC Store
♦ Recognitions: Jessica Davidson as “Town of Troutman Employee of the Month” for January, Miss Iredell County Jamie Logan and Miss Iredell County Teen Piper Pollard, and Wrestling Coach Bill Mayhew.