Destinations

Crowded house in Gastown watches council commit millions

“Big Plan” Palenick had his vision and confirmation of at least 3 more years of job security voted in by the Gastonia City Council last night, 5-1. Even tenacious city-cheerleader/mayor Jennie raised her hand in the vote. We wondered about that, was she worried about a tie?

cheerleader-mayor-stultz.jpg big-plan-palenick.jpg (Palenick considering the mind-meld technique)

In the so-called Downtown Revitalization plan, the former First Union building will be torn down to build a parking deck. That surely must be a good first step. Can’t find parking for the Thursday night summer events at the Rotary Pavilion and on the 4th of July, so it must be able to alleviate that mess. It is certainly very close to the other “Gastonia” destination hot-spots of the DS Botanical Gardens (11.51 miles), the Schiele (2 miles, ok 1.98 miles), and the always jumping Franklin Square 1 (4.51 miles).

It is really doubtful that the other voting members of the Gastonia City Council get it. Business markets develop over time. Government interventions to jump-start private investment have very mixed results. One key is the local community support through pride of the the financial committment, and “boots on the ground”. Many of the downtown property owners know that, have waited for the “free” money (i.e. your taxpayer $$) to flow their way and ultimately allow them to cash out.

We have no problem with property owners wanting to get the best deal for themselves, or for a community to “profit” by investment in the downtown areas. But when a plan “elbows” its way into the process, with little discussion and the spectre of class warfare below the surface, it becomes a fairness discussion.

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Moving the Salvation Army Shelter and administrative functions out of downtown, to “…hide your brothers and sisters…”, as Captain Stan Colbert has commented, is one way to rid the appearance of blight and depression. Ok, so 5 million privately contributed dollars later, the shelter is moved across the tracks and the homeless cross the Marietta Street bridge and hang out in front of the new downtown Microtel Inn and Convention Center?

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It is just a shame that this proposal also chooses to ignore the already committed investments that the city has made to renovate the Webb Theater and the private investment plans that are slowly turning.

A downtown investment is not a quick fix. Mr. Kirlin knows that. The city of Belmont knows that as well. Our downtown “beautification” is certainly taking on a life of its own, but remember, it was a decade ago and commitments by PRIVATE property owners to work together to make it all happen. The city just dealt with the streetscape and made an investment into the park area. The Belmont downtown development group (underwritten by Stowe Mills), and the revitalized downtown merchants association (re-formed when the chamber was struggling with membership), worked very hard to work on a mix of business types to hopefully balance a purpose to visit the downtown area.

That result is an apparently vibrant downtown at 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 8:00 PM. Of course, that commitment also cost a visionary mayor his elected seat, and brought several more years of obstructionist cronyism before we could seriously address the need for nurturing our community soul.

Gastonia has to suffer the throes of similar tribulation – it will all work out in the end, that of which, we are hopeful.

To comment on the event last night itself:  

The Belmont Front Porch’s intrepid editors, taking pages from the political science playbooks, stationed people at the council meeting and watched the drivel unfold on television last night. The exit polls by the “watchers” definitely indicate an uprising brewing among the Gastonia electorate. As far as television is concerned, it would seem that both city council members and staff should learn to dress for the low-tech cameras that are trained on their every  utterance of  “uh”, “yeah”, “okay”, and our collective favorite,  “um”.

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Gaston College offers public speaking classes, Toastmasters International has at least two area chapters, and there are a host of community consultants that for a fee could help these elected public officials and hired staff stand before a mic and camera. Please invest your training dollars wisely if you hire or elect mumble-mouths.

Consultant not sold on Gastonia’s plans for downtown convention center, hotel

Aren’t we surprised?

Gastonia’s super-secret-deal $16,000 contract consultant backs off his own report. Could it be that Atlantic Hospitality Advisors are worried about the possible business connection back to “Big Plan” Palenick?

We have to give a lot of credit to councilman Kirlin for wanting to explore this issue in more detail.

david-kirlin.jpg (Gastonia City Councilman, Dave Kirlin)

Tonight’s Gastonia City Council meeting will be televised (Gaston County Access Channel 16 on the TW cable). We hope Mr. Palenick wears some makeup.

The consultant’s fees for this market study don’t appear to be too well-earned. Most of the data looks to be lifted from several earlier studies of the Gaston County area and accessible data from both the Economic Development Commission and the Census Bureau. So, taxpayers footed the bill to tell the Gastonia City Council what they already knew?

You can read some of the fiction yourselves right here:

gastonia-market-analysis.pdf  

The report is a 2mb file and might take a bit to download. Pretty hefty you must admit for $16,000.

Mr. Palenick’s “revised” plan that will be discussed at tonight’s meeting:

strategic-development-plan-revised-02-11-2008.pdf

Chamber changes town’s name to “Montcross”

Yes, that is the word around town the past couple of weeks – for real. We are not making this up.

And people are furious.

So much for the gossip gabbies, the name change of the Chamber is NOT the name change of the town — so settle down. It is just the Chamber name not the town name.

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At the very end of the Chamber’s annual dinner on January 24, an announcement was made that the Belmont Chamber would hence be known as the the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce, signifying the regional aspect and vision of the Belmont community.

Several members were “aghast” (our words) over the development. Some were downright angry that a small group of people could change the focus of a community chamber that quickly and without much external debate.

However, most of the Belmont Chamber’s membership are not truly Belmont businesses, but branch representatives, and businesses with market groups in the Belmont area. When speaking with several different board members about the proposal, it seems that many of the 2007 board were not present at the meetings where this name change was discussed — or so they say. This discussion had been taking place over the course of several board retreats, but never was really discussed publically. 

So, it begs the question, who voted for the name change? Do people serve on boards of directors to build resumes and networked inside tracks, or are just a minority driving the agenda?

Upset small business owners who are members of the chamber for 2008 have one way to drive their point home. Vote by withholding your membership dues upon renewal — of course, for many that isn’t until next November or December. Not really a wise idea though…big things are ahappinin’…

We hope that the the Abbey/Parkdale/Stowe Mill consortium known as Montcross paid big money to rebrand a community name, along with the regional focus.

With an expected $2 billion investment and 14,000 jobs over the 20-year+ master plan for the development, it seems logical to “help” Bill Monroe, and the Abbey with a more visible name than Belmont.

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Belmont becomes Berkeley

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Belmont Middle School students, evoking memories of a past era of protests by young people, held their own rally at Stowe Park on January 15. A peaceful protest rally seeking to be heard in the town-wide discussion of behavior in the park and downtown area.

Spurred on by a growing animosity between hundreds of adolescents in the downtown area immediately after school and downtown merchants, Belmont police addressed all the parents via a letter.

The word got out that the city wanted the park emptied of young teens and that the kids were ‘banned from the park”.

As the BannerNews reported, albeit delayed by its posting on this site, the students were not “banned”, but were definitely given the message to “go elsewhere”.

Parks and Recreation opinion — set up surveillance systems to track troublemakers — not a good option.

Downtown Merchants opinion — get them out, or get them supervised — not particularly good, but better.

Belmont Police — we need more officers, we need more money — SOP response, also not productive.

Gaston County Schools’ — once the students leave our campus, they are no longer our responsibility — oooh-kaay, how productive is that?  

The kids took matters into their own hands, and, voila’, a meeting occurs on January 16.

Way to go Teens! 

We still stand by our original opinion, that all the groups need to dialogue/plan better afterschool options so that “bad apples” don’t spoil the adolescent need to “hang out” in public areas — and feel safe while growing up.

It does require the entire community to monitor. It does require individual families with children in this age group and school group to have open communication and supervision of the kids. It does require cooperation.  

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Conference Championship Sunday

   giants.png   VS.   packers.png       

AND

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On the Belmont Front Porch, Conference Championship Sunday is actually a bit bigger than the Super Bowl. The reason? There are TWO games and a lot more emotion wrapped up in the outcomes — plain and simple.

There is a split in the factions, so this year it seems that everyone will be rooting for someone else. This makes for an interesting evening.

No school on Monday and with MLK holiday on top,  it is all working well for a wonderful get-together.

There were some stores sales the past week to help with party planning. The food prep is pretty easy — with two games back-to-back — there is time for two complete meals. Nobody really stresses out over it all.

Ok, well, one for the kids, and one for the gamers. The rest of us just sorta come and go.  

We will have chili, hotdogs, chips (lots of ’em), wings, and a lot of pickups like the smokie sausage thingy’s. Since we have too many cheese-heads in Belmont, we have to grill out Brats — they are sooo picky with their food choices during ball games.

Right now it appears that overall, people are predicting the Pats and the Pack in the Super Bowl.

It has been a great football season.

   

Orchid Conservatory at DSBG opens Saturday

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Observer Article

Charlotte Trip Magazine Article

The Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens (DSBG) are by far the coolest piece of the Gaston County sites to visit. Over time, the Gardens will be larger and more complete — there is a 40-year Master Plan for the site — world class by anyone’s standards. This was a privately funded project without government “partnership”. The late Daniel Stowe kick started and endowed the development of the Gardens with a donation of land and $14 million in the early 1990’s. All other development has been through private contributions and sponsorship.  

The unique destination sites that now border the City of Belmont are the US National Whitewater Center to the east (just over the river north of the I-85 weigh station) and the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. Along with historical sites located throughout the county, Gaston is blessed with tourism resources that can rival many pleaces.

Good luck to the folks of the community who develop and market these facilities. Belmont certainly has taken a lead when it comes to developing intriquing places to visit.

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(Red Imperial Bromliad – one of 2,000 rare and exotic plant at DSBG)

Orchid links

 

Belmont resident to give leadership to Tourism group

Friend and neighbor, Walt Israel, was tapped by the Gaston County Travel and Tourism board to serve as the interim director of the organization.

He has begun the $50,000 temporary postion and will concentrate on moving the Big League Dreams project in Gastonia and helping to recruit new hotels to the area. The Tourism department of the Economic Development Commission is funded by a Hotel/Motel occupancy tax.

A staff member to the Visitor’s Center was also approved by the Tourism board. This position will be funded by the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.

(704) 825-4044   620 N Main St    Belmont, NC 28012