Catawba River

Gaston To Welcome Olympic Hopefuls In Belmont’s Stowe Park Wednesday

Come see some future Olympians and welcome competitors in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Whitewater Slalom Team Trials in Belmont’s Stowe Park Wednesday, April 23, from 6:30 – 9 p.m.

About 130 competitors are in the area preparing for the trials this weekend at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. The City of Belmont is sponsoring the Stowe Park party along with the Belmont Downtown Merchants Association, Gaston Travel and Tourism and The Gaston Gazette.

There’ll be live music by the band Rough Draft and Whitewater Center exhibits. The Belmont Historical Society’s Cultural Learning Center will be open during the event at 40 Catawba Street.

There’s no charge for any of the activities.

City Council Action

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Last night’s city council meeting (January 7, 2008) was adequately attended by citizens and public workers.

The council approved the consent agenda which had a section dealing with the sewer upgrades in the “south outfall” area (near Amity Acres/Pinsto). An 18″ pipe would be installed that should be able to service a population of 35,000 in the peninsula area below the High School. Looks like the engineers are thinking way ahead.

Retired Firefighter, Robert Steve Hubbard, was recognized by the NC League of Municipalities for 36 years of service to Belmont. Richard Boyce made the presentation to a standing ovation by the crowd. Chief Altice took pictures.

During the public comment section, a gentleman who lives on Oak Street requested the city look into the cut-through traffic that people are using to bypass the crowded Central Avenue at busy times. People are turning down Harris Street (next to Charlie Martin’s house) and turning back up the hill onto Oak to bypass the stoplights at Myrtle/Central and Central/Main. He commented that, “…people are traveling in excess of 60 miles per hour up the hill…”. Council referred the man to Chief James for further discussion.

A representative from the Belmont Housing Authority updated the council on the Housing Authority activity. Council member, Martha Stowe was a member of that board, but had to resign upon election to City Council. There are two vacancies on the housing Authority Board. The mayor appoints the board. Mayor Boyce indicated that applications from interested participants could be directed to the Housing Authority. (P.O. Box 984, Belmont).

There was a text amendment to the Business Campus Development District. this would allow a business to have a drive-through window in this zoning designation as a conditional use. The purpose of the amednment was to accomodate Belmont Federal’s planned move to the corner of Planetree and Park Street (the old laundry/Backyard BBQ and adjacent lots) that were rezoned at the last council meeting.

There was a lengthy presentation and discussion to rezone a GR-4 piece of property at the river’s edge above the rail trestle to Business Campus Development/Conditional District to accomodate the Dickson and Whaley family requests to build a 42-slip marina and convenience store.

Piedmont Road property owners presented a petition to make sure that the road which is already fenced off at the old Spectrum plant, remain fenced off. Several residents of Edgemont were also in attendance and expressed concerns about traffic on the narrow roads of Edgemont, Linestowe, and River Road. Property rights advocate, Charlie Flowers, added language to the conditional use that no liquor be allowed or amplified music, except for special events. Once the property lines were established and the developer answered all the questions of council members, an affirmative vote was taken.

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The photo above shows the property that was requesting a rezone. The longest discussion revolved around the section of the photo from the left of the flat area to the little “beach area”. Apparently city and county maps do not show this as existing land, or that the land is withing County jurisdiction. The store, boat landing would built closer to the River Road in the cove area. The aluminum-covered boat slips (42 of them) would be built in the foreground of the photo.

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City council members also added language to allow for the development of a greenway along this property. It is unknown how that will work – property rights and all, you know. the drawing above shows the “added” land area under jurisdictional questioning. Longtime Belmontians know that the “added” land was ash and landfill over a long period of time. Many a great party was held in the picnic shelter and along the riverbank over the years.  

The anticipated big discussion of the evening, non-contiguous voluntary annexation of 55 acres with proposed access to Lower Armstrong Ford Road and South Point Road was withdrawn by the property owners. The council voted to continue the public hearing of the project until the February meeting.

Todd Neely and the architect for the Riverfront Park presented the final master plan for the new park down along East Catawba. The Belmont Front Porch had previously reported that work is progressing with the demolition of the two houses just behind Dale’s. The final plan shows a boardwalk with a small landing to launch paddle boats. A lot of green space and trails. The island, being referred to as “Irl’s Island” or Gilligan’s Island, — in reference to former council member, Irl Dixon, who has championed the acquistion of the island for a long time — was now included in the plan with “nature trails” weaving through the space. Council was asked to approve the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant application for a 50% match of a $1,000,000 project. Belmont would provide $500,000 and the State’s park trust fund grant would match this amount. A detailed budget was provided to the council members. Council approved the grant application.

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In other business, defeated council candidate, Richard Turner, was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Advisory committee to replace Jenny Granson who had resigned. Only two people has applied for the slot, with one person being disqualified because they lived outside the Belmont ETJ ( go figure).

Council also rearranged their committees and heard from the various council members of their special interest concerns. City Manager Barry Webb reported that city staff are encouraging the development of a Tree Committee and participation in the Tree City, USA program.  

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“Keep It Clean, We All Live Downstream”

The new brochure given out by the City of Belmont Stormwater Management program. Came in the mail with the water bills:

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(How a stormwater detention pond works)

Yes, one of the unfunded federal mandated programs that the cities were left to figure out how to fund and enforce.

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Well, really, to be fair, there have been some funding “streams” from the feds and state that cities can “match” with local efforts.  

But, Belmont and other communities got most of it right by the use of Stormwater Fees and better planning methods to retain runoff caused by new development. Impact fees have also helped, but as much as communities raise those fees, developers keep proposing projects.

Good planning (which Belmont is getting better at year-by-year) and tightening the local ordinances are helping to slow the runoff caused by development within the watershed area of the Catawba and South Fork rivers. With urbanization — heavens, that’s happening here? — comes the effects that run down the street, into the sewers, and directly into the rivers.

Well, many of us purchased homes that have been here since back in the day… and like it or not, we need to help try to keep our drinking water source as clean as can be for everyone – yup, even the dreaded newcomers. Wouldn’t be neighborly if all of a sudden the new people in them rich houses started to get sick on a count of our grass clippings making algae around the intakes now would it?  

Go on back up in the article to read about ways we all can help to keep our runoff cleaner. We particularly like the suggestion #2, Washing Your Vehicle. the flyer suggests that we pull the car onto the lawn to wash, where the soapy water will fall on the grass and be filtered as it drains. It won’t harm the lawn it suggests. Well, what happens if you don’t have much yard? – like in Hawthorne or Adams Bluff – and, what about the ruts in the lawn?

Oh well, don’t have to worry ’bout that right now – we are NOT supposed to be washing cars anyway because of the DROUGHT. Oh, of course, it’s ok if you have an irrigation well though, right – Eagle Park, Graystone, Belle Meade, and Glenmere?

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Anyway, We all need to do our best to help the stormwater management process work — for our health, and for the health of our neighbors downstream as well.

Fun source of information on stormwater management processes, just click on the picture under the linked article.

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.

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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.

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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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$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.

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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”.

Beer, wine maker has new home in Belmont textile mill

We love it !

Of all the uses for former textile facilities, warehousing being one, enterprises such as an internet sales of beer and wine making don’t usually top the economic development list.

Alternative Beveridge has been around awhile and recently moved operations to Belmont, and the Gazette highlighted the operation in East Belmont in a recent article.

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(Mike Hendsill – Gazette Photo)

In our humblest opinion, the entrepreneurs of the world are at the top of the list. Several of our blogsite readers and commentors own these types of businesses and are quite successful. Some grow to become giant organizations, others provide a comfortable living for the owners and employees within a community. So, kudos to ya’ll who have those types of visions and determination to make a business grow and thrive over time.

What we like about Alternative Beveridge is the simple way of teaching and servicing their customers.

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A simple way to homebrew

Shrinking Catawba reveals surprises for watchful

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(BFP reader submitted photo)

JOE DEPRIEST

Anybody can see the Catawba River is in trouble.

All that land uncovered by retreating water is a constant reminder of just how much. It looks like you could play softball or miniature golf on wide open spaces that were once inundated. As I worry about the river, I’ve wondered if the land will be permanently damaged by prolonged exposure and if the river would look the same once the drought ends.

Two local river experts — Joe Stowe of Belmont and Jimmy Drumm of Mount Holly — recently told me the exposed land won’t be harmed in the long run.

Both have been keeping a close watch on the river they love. They’ve never seen the water as low and or been so amazed at the things they’ve found there.

Stowe, 66, who is chairman of the Lake Wylie Marine Commission, recently spotted a 3-foot-diameter red oak stump near his boat lift.

It was an opportunity for him to clear out a major chunk of debris. Sparks flew as Stowe’s chainsaw bit hard into the stump.

The thing didn’t want to come out of the spot where it had been sunk so long the wood had almost petrified.

The shrinking Catawba is full of surprises in these critical times.

The drought has changed the dynamics of wildlife along the river.

Stowe said more raccoons, squirrels and deer are watering in the river as small creeks and streams dry up in nearby forests.

He’s seen muskrats moving to the water as their dens are exposed in riprap along the shoreline.

The muskrats and raccoons are also dealing with a reduced food source.

Stowe said that in early summer, as the river banks first began retreating, mussels were exposed and died. The rotten mussels attracted flocks of buzzards, gulls and crows. That’s passed now, but Stowe said the mussel population took a big hit.

With boat traffic down, he said the river actually looks cleaner. He thinks people are taking better care of the ailing Catawba.

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Competitive fisherman Jimmy Drumm isn’t on the Catawba as often — only about twice a week instead of four or five because of the drought.All the boat landings have been closed except for the one at Nivens Creek in Lake Wylie, S.C.

Drumm, 60, has fished the river since age 3. He knows the Catawba’s stories and lore and respects it highly.

His current view of the river: There’s plenty of deep water and fish are still biting.

Just be careful when you get out there. And don’t even think about venturing north of the railroad trestle in Belmont. From that point about two miles or so upriver to the Mountain Island Dam, the going is extremely treacherous.

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(BFP reader submitted photo)

Drumm knows that for a fact. He tried it about 1 1/2 months ago.

“It was very, very slow going,” Drumm said. “I was amazed at the rock beds and the clusters of trash and roots and stumps. I’d never seen this stuff before.”

On the exposed ground, he saw bridge abutments washed away by the legendary flood of July 1916 — the same high water that destroyed the Mountain Island textile mill and village. Drumm spotted an old wooden device with metal hooks that may have been used at the mill to roll logs or cotton bales.

He also found an old wagon wheel hub and spokes. When he returned later to get the items, someone had already beaten him to them. Drumm has heard about folks hunting the exposed land for musket balls and arrowheads.

As the drought continues, the river reveals pieces of the region’s past.

Looking ahead

I hope the drought breaks soon, but forecasts don’t look good.

Stowe said if the river level drops another foot, some water intakes will become inoperable. Continued conservation is a must.

Meanwhile, Stowe and Drumm also are concerned about the river’s long-term future.

Managing sediment caused by development will continue to be a problem long after the drought.

Maybe our worries in this extraordinary dry season will stick in our minds. When the river rebounds, it still will be in trouble and need our help.