Month: December 2007

Belmont Not Meeting Water Restriction Guidelines

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With Stage 3 water restrictions in place, Belmont must just be ignoring the severity of the drought.

In October, Governor Easley called on the municipalities throughout the state to cut water useage by 50%. According to the NC Drought Monitor, Belmont just isn’t meeting that goal.

gov-easley-water-consumption-monitor-10-22-07.pdf

Belmont’s average daily useage as of August 2007 was 2.4 million gallons per day.  

  12/10          12/3         11/26         11/19          11/12           11/5          10/29          10/22

-34.76% -29.97% -30.18% -29.48% -17.64% -19.66% -29.31% -33.75%

So, what’s up with that?

It is not as if the state hadn’t given communities guidelines or unreasonable expectations. Back in 2002, during the last drought,  the State passed HB 1215. Section 5 of House Bill 1215 required the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to evaluate water conservation measures being implemented in North Carolina and to identify incentive programs and other voluntary programs that can help foster water conservation, water reuse, and water use efficiency.

water-use-during-droughts-and-water-supply-emergencies.pdf

At the last city council meeting, City Manager Barry Webb, spoke about the possible actions to “encourage” further water conservation, including a “temporary” water rate increase.

We all know that several businesses will be heavily impacted, and that those on “fixed incomes” will want exemptions right off the bat, if council seriously considers this added taxation.

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Isn’t this Special ?

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A suburban town just outside of New York City is offering an “opportunity” for its senior citizens to work off their property taxes.

Wow, a novel way to counteract spiralling need to reach into a homeowner’s wallet. Since we taxed your property that a lot of people want, and you can’t afford the taxes now, we can let you work for us!

We wonder – does that mean the county government payroll goes up, or are the newly minted serfs considered “contract workers”? If the community has a public bidding process, does that mean the senior citizens in the community have to publically bid for the job “opportunity”? Do the wages earned get taxed?

“There are lots of things people can do for the town and it wouldn’t cost us that much to pay them”, said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

laughing.jpg    No Doubt…

Minnesota “allows” its senior citizens to defer their property taxes, but not forgives them of the obligation — “This is not a tax forgiveness program – it is a low interest loan from the state. The deferred tax is paid by the state to your county. Interest will be charged on this loan. The interest rate will be adjusted annually, but will never exceed five percent. A lien will attach to your property.” — from the state web page.

OK, so now we owe interest on top of the tax, and our children pay the estate off when we pass away. Sounds like a windfall for the county — even better than the accomodations tax used to fund our community festivals and chambers of commerce.

“They’re heart-committed volunteers,” said Council on Aging Director Patricia McCarthy, to a Whitman, MA, town council. Town Administrator Frank Lynam said there could be work for seniors who want to take on light custodial work at the Town Hall.

Shur’nuf, 111 hours of peasant labor…

Gaston County offers a Homestead Exclusion, but no overtly special way to pay off the tax liability.

The qualifications for this exclusion also require the owner to make a timely application. The deadline for the application is June 1.  The major qualifications for a Gaston County resident include a minimum age or disability as of January 1 — 65 years or older or totally and permanently disabled.   In addition, the owner’s adjusted gross income (individual or husband and wife) can not exceed $19,200 for the calendar year preceding the year in which the exclusion is claimed.  Those who qualify for the exclusion can receive the greater of $20,000 or 50% of the value of their residence reduced from their tax bill.

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Since the Gazette didn’t pick up the story yet, maybe our illustrious county commissioners won’t get big ideas just yet. Oops — too late — it appears that there at least a couple county commissioners that read this blog.

Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas

We hope your holidays are joyous and loving !

Poll shows no easy re-election for Dole

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The Charlotte Observer is reporting that Senator Elizabeth Dole is facing a difficult re-election in 2008.

We feel pretty skeptical about this considering the strong republican segment in NC and the fact that few people know much about democratic hopefuls, Kay Hagan, Jim Neal, and John Hendrix

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2002 election result for Gaston County:

Gaston Bowles 34.9% 14,976
Dole 63.4% 27,176
0.0% 0
Other 1.6% 704

There are other political parties active in North Carolina that would hope to field candidates, however, NC laws prevent ballot access. This has been a continual discussion on the Belmont Front Porch, usually when the weather is warmer and we can sit outside longer in the evenings.

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Richness of Life

In Belmont, we are often faced with the challenges and joys of accepting and tolerating people of many backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles, and faith.

Belmont Abbey College is a rich dynamic of teen angst, higher education, self discovery, religious growth, and a source for leadership development.

Thank you  to Abbott Placid Solari, the priests and brothers of the Southern Benedictine Society, and the faculty and staff of the college.

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One student, Elizabeth Suaso, a student at the Abbey from South Carolina, has written a particularly interesting account of life. It is good reading. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page to look over a 440 page body of work.

Recently, the American Legion honored two people who had given formative leadership to the the development of the Belmont Historical Society, Bob Brown and Jack Page. We know both of these men as neighbors, colleagues, and friends. This year’s Community Service Award by the Legion was well-timed and well-deserved.

Belmont is also blessed by the long-term commitment that Vince and Brenda Hill had made to downtown Belmont. It took a very long time for Caravan Coffee to appear as an anchor of the downtown revitalization. The building renovation seem to take for-EV-ver, first the hole in the wall, then no roof, then the interior. The result has been fanTAStic. They got Brenda’s cake-making storefront up first, and carefully laid out the coffee shop.

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Now, the Hill’s have  taken on leadership with the downtown merchant’s association and last summer led the development of the street concerts, called Friday Night Live, on alternating Friday evenings. Vince, you and Brenda got our votes for “Citizen of the Year” for 2007.

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The former students of the East Belmont elementary school have been doing fundraising to build a memorial for the old school which had been torn down some years ago. The last remnant of the school being the “scout hut” at Park Street Methodist Church and some fencing along Church street.  

As Belmont grows, multiple elements of traffic, business, housing, schools, roads, and newcomers pressure us all to deal with the change in our various ways.

This summer, while picnicking on the hill at Stowe Park during one of the many events, the reflection of how much Belmont has changed over the past 20 years was impacted by all the new faces at each event. New accents, different clothing styles, vastly different types of cars parked on Main Street and along Myrtle all contributed to the noticeable change that has taken place.

The Montcross presentation at the Haid last week had the old and the new in the same room. Curiousity, opportunity, and leadership meeting over wine and cheese.

Interestingly, Clyde Dietz was present at the Abbey that evening. Clyde has to be almost 100 years old by now. He has served this community very well in many capacities. His presence was one more element of statesmanship that we really appreciated.

For many of us, his presence at the event put an exclamation point on the “richness of life” that is Belmont.

Related Link: Order of St. Benedict

Legion Christmas Celebration Gives Nod to Belmont Historical Society

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Friday night’s American Legion annual Christmas celebration awarded its Community Service Award to two very deserving men, Bob Brown and Jack Page.

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(Gazette Photo-Benjamin Patton)

 The award was given for their long community service records and especially for their leadership in the establishment of the Belmont Historical Society.

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Both men were invited to the celebration to introduce the other as the Community Service award recipients. Mayor Richard Boyce and long time legionaire, Art Shoemaker, turned the tables on both by having Mayor Boyce introduce them to the assembly.

The annual Christmas celebration at the Legion Post on Park Drive was attended by current Mayor Boyce, and past mayors, Billy Joye and Kevin Loftin. Newly elected city council member, Ron Foulk was in attendance as well as the re-elected Charlie Flowers and former council members Becky Burch and Arlene Flowers. County Commissioner Mickey Price was present as well.

Joye served as emcee in his own inimitable way introducing honored guests and community stalwarts. Coaches John Devine and Mickey Lineberger were recognized as well as former Belmont Banner editor, Dwight Frady. 

Art Shumaker announced that Mickey Lineberger would be the Belmont Braves Legion baseball coach for this upcoming season.

Shannon Angel, a 1991 Red Raider graduate entertained the crowd with several Christmas songs and carols.

Youth leaders from the community were introduced and each spoke briefly about their experiences of the Legion-sponsored event that they had been selected to attend.

Legion baseball player-representative Nick DeMarsico thanked the Legion Post 144 for sponsoring the baseball team each year and how he enjoyed playing through the summer to keep his skills sharp.

Girls State representatives Lindsey Hawkins, Caitlyn Reese, Katie Dare Payseur, Emily Scruggs, and Ashley Baker. The young women had attended the Girls State program at Catawba College this past summer, and each expressed their gratitude for the leadership development opportunity. Boys State Representatives for the summer program were, Trevor Reeves, Matt Crane, Cameron Matthews, Andrew Pierce, and Omar Baroudi.

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$2 Billion in construction and payrolls and 14,000 jobs projected for Montcross by 2035

Bill Monroe of WGM Design of Charlotte addressed a crowded Belmont Chamber of Commerce function at The Haid on the campus of Belmont Abbey College tonight.

Monroe shared the vision and master plan of the Montcross project that is expected to cost over a billion dollars to construct and provide jobs for 14,000 people, with an additional economic impact of almost $1 billion by 2035. Steelwood Solutions assisted with the impact study of the overall project.

steelwood-property-development-case-study.pdf

The meeting was attended by local politicians, real estate agents, small business owners, homeowners, and “other interested parties” – namely four members of the BFP editorial staff.

The Abbey, represented by Dr. Thierfelder, Abbott Placid, Monte Monteleone, and  the college development staff welcomed the visitors and updated everyone on the recent successes of the College. Dr. Thierfelder reported that the Abbey enrollment had exceeded 1,300 students this school year. Applications for the coming year will push enrollment up to 1,600 for the fall of 2008. The goal of the college is to reach a maximum enrollment of 2,500 students in the next twenty years.

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Monroe reviewed the 17-year history of WGM Design’s relationship with the Abbey, by noting that the master plan has continually changed and evolved over the years. The partnership with the Stowe-Pharr-Parkdale was reviewed and how the Montcross Development came to be known.

He described each parcel of the plan in pretty good detail.

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Yes, Cracker Barrel is interested. Recent changes in Cracker Barrel management have caused the operation to seek the property behind the Bi-Lo instead of next to the Hampton Inn. A medical office complex is planned for that parcel, explained Monroe. But there have been managerial changes so the Abbey is just waiting to see what they will decide to pursue.

Many “national chain restaurants” have inquired about the strip of land next to Nyoshi back toward the Wal-Mart. From the drawings, it appears that 5, maybe 6 parcels for restaurants are available in this strip. One restaurant chain was insisting on a parcel along Wilkinson Boulevard, next to the Handy Lube. However, that would involve rezoning the property from Business Campus to Highway Business. One of the main battlefronts during the Wal-Mart “debate” was the zoning ordinances and ultimate process of rezoning that was predicted.

Looks like this prediction will be coming to fruition in the coming months. Monroe commented that they would be talking to city officials in the near future about this rezoning application.

Monroe gave a polite tip of the hat to former council member, Becky Burch (who wasn’t present) by confirming that a cafeteria chain had inquired about the old Harris-Teeter section of the Abbey Plaza. That confirmation allowed a fist-in-the-air celebration by none other than Dot Martin, wife of council member Charlie Martin. Seems that someone’s agendas are going to be completed. Monroe pointed out that nothing has been finalized.

Rose’s was discussed briefly. Apparently Rose’s renewed their lease and business has actually increased since Wal-Mart’s opening. Monroe described that Rose’s prices are lower than Wal-Mart’s and that has led to a resurging sales tally for the retail anchor in Abbey Plaza.

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Dunkin’ Donuts will be opening a section in the Exxon structure on the corner of Wilkinson and Park. Not a stand alone building.

He discussed the north section of the plan – the Parkdale section – the old Acme Mill village and Woodlawn Avenue area will become home to two and three story office complexes. The first is scheduled to have plans presented to city council in the first quarter of the New Year. Guess that means no park in North Belmont after all.

The far western section, the Pharr-owned area (just east of “The Slide”) will become a site for multi-family (apartments) and another nearby section needs to be re-designed after it was revealed that some of the land was once used for a landfill. Gee, anyone who has lived here for more than a few years could’ve told you what was in that area before you made pretty drawings of houses.

The section of Stowe land just west of The Oaks will house 4 and 5 story office buildings similar to the Ballantyne project and will be visible from I-85. So long green forested interstate buffers.

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Land to the Northeast of the expanded campus will become a medical park, a senior retirement community of apartments and assisted living centers. The final jewel in the plan is a section at exit #27 of 4 story office buildings. This section alone will draw $400,000,000 of investment and develop about 7,000 jobs. Monroe explained that developers and the Abbey will build a road that would traverse the area from Hwy 273 to Belmont-Mt. Holly Road. He hinted that the Gaston County Economic Development Commission could also find funding for this road.

Monroe entertained several questions from the audience. Deposed council member, Irl Dixon was concerned over the A&W property and the Nyoshi/Burger King building. Yum! Brands, Inc. holds a long-term lease of the former Long John Silver/A&W building and is still paying rent to the Benedictines.

Sindy Maxwell of the Belmont Planning & Zoning Board asked about the land area within the Belmont City limits. All but the western section in McAdenville and a small 40-acre section in Mt. Holly below the Mt. Holly water tower, Monroe responded.

He noted that one additional small strip of land east of the Arby’s in Belmont toward the river would be used for small “incubator” types of office structures. There is space for about ten small buildings in this section.

A homeowner living near the now-closed Stowe Spinning Mill was concerned about what would be replacing the Spinning Mill. Monroe said that section was not part of the project and he didn’t know what was planned.

Overall, it was a good presentation, factual and to the point. Reporters for the Gazette, Observer and Banner were represented so we should be reading their take of the meeting in a day or so…These folks were seen sidling up to the principals after the meeting concluded, so we met in the parking lot to share notes. Thought about meeting at the Holy Grounds coffee shop, “serving Starbucks products”, as Mr. Monroe described, but decided that our identities were more important than hob-knobing.

Congratulations to Ted Hall and the Belmont Chamber of Commerce for exceeding their goal of making it to 300 memberships for 2008. They will have 304, and as Chamber Board Chair Paul Lowrance noted, “the fastest growing Chamber in the Southeast”.