Lake Wylie

City Council Action – February 4

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The Belmont city council, fresh off of a planning retreat, began addressing some of the goals and directions right off the bat at last night’s February meeting.

City manager, Barry Webb, reviewed the city’s financial statements and audit report for the council. The council listened to a presentation by two students from the Mayor’s Youth Council of Gastonia about starting a similar program here in Belmont. The council seemed receptive and accepted an invitation to attend one of their meetings.

During the council work session which immediately precedes the council meeting, the city manager reviewed items from the consent agenda and what needed to be discussed during the meeting. The city council members receive a bound book with all the business items for the meeting. That book is open for review by the public usually a day or two prior to the council meetings – a recent development.

Public comments last night came from residents along Lower Armstrong Ford Road concerned over th annexation of development which had received zoning and construction approval by the county. One man, who lives in Misty Waters and had moved here from California, was concerned over the Town Center concept and the impact on the overall infrastructure. He listed concerns of worries over multi-family housing, road widening, and traffic flow.

Two business owners, spoke about the impact of water restrictions on their businesses and asked that council members seek some sort of consistent agreement across communities. Council appeared to agree with the assertion that landscaping businesses face huge odds with differing interpretations of what cities are doing to respond to the drought conditions.

Fire Chief Altice presented a self-described “brag-book” to members of council with pictures and charts of all the things the fire department had done through the year. Maybe the book could be displayed at the City Hall desk, chief? You may present to council, but the voters do put them in that position. Altice noted some commentary he had with an elderly citizen about where the grant monies come from on a recent grant that the department had received. His comment to the voter, “if we don’t get it here, someone else will”. While true, was this not a bit flip in the process?

Federal grants and earmarks are the people’s money coming home, so to speak, and in this case it is money that has been well-used and beneficial to the department. We hope council gives very good oversight to the submitted grants. There have been instances in other communities where equipment garnered through grants (matching or otherwise) actually just sit unused. Please don’t let that happen here.

The annexing of the wraparound property near the intersection of South Point Road and Lower Armstrong was continued by council. The developers had withdrawn the request last month as well.

The former Leeper property at the waterfront of the South Fork and Lower Armstrong Road bridge was voluntarily annexed into the city. There will be roughly 30-35, 1-acre lots with million dollar plus homes built in this development, under a low density zoning.

Council authorized up to $50,000 to repair Amanda Lane over in Pinsto Forest as a result of a contractor busting through an 8″ water main. Maybe that is why our water use was so high that week.

Council discussed and approved a $27,000 emergency water interconnect construction with Mount Holly to be located in North Belmont. This would be used in times of emergency.

The members of the city council discussed the manager’s summary of the planning retreat held at the US National Whitewater Center a couple of weekends ago. New members, Ron Foulk and Martha Stowe, both had agendas that appear to be high on the goal list. Foulk would like to see a 3-5 year listing of Capital Improvement Projects and how they would impact the future budgets, Stowe would like to see more accountability in the USNWC relationship. They discussed the committee structure, touching on a Watershed/stormwater panel, tree ordinances, and training.

What council meeting would be complete without personal interests across the board, under the ol’ “other business” portion of the meeting? Really, in year’s past, this would be where items would be pushed through when the public and media had long left the room. Under this mayor, at least it is tempered by “concerns” and reports/announcements rather than motions and action.

Last night it was the on-going and close to resolution saga of lights in the mature upscale community of Glenmere. They may just be close to getting streetlights, getting the right color, and right style.

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The mayor commented that the speed of retreat did not allow for a lot of goals to be more specific and that there would be a lot of work necessary to be completed. Some items mentioned were: the on-going need to update zoning ordinances to meet the Comprehensive Land Use Plan goals; open space requirements; proper alignment of tree ordinance language and application; and, an adequate public facilities ordinance.

He also discussed the need for an Occupancy Tax now that Belmont has legitimate hotels being built in the community. The manager stated that a committee, or board needed to be established to provide oversight of the process.

Looks like a busy agenda for the council this year. It is always good to see a crowded chamber.      

   

Ahh, Progress on Riverfront Park

Well, Well, Well, finally some progress can be seen over in East Belmont in the land area designated for the new Riverfront park.

 The two homes, originally slated to be moved, then to be used in fire department training exercises, have been demolished — Finally…

 With the passage of the Parks and Recreation Bond referendum this past November, the way has been “cleared” to begin work on the park.

Maybe the city will figure out a way to post the schematics of the park on their website so we all can see the plans for this important development.

“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:

belmont-stormwater-management-flyer.pdf

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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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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.

Blessed be the Riverkeeper

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Donna Lisenby, the Catawba riverkeeper, considered by many who live along the river basin to be a hero of sorts, has discovered and reported the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department (CMUD) for “secret” wastewater releases.

WCNC and the Charlotte Observer are reporting that the FBI and EPA are investigating release practices by CMUD workers at the McAlpine Creek plant.

This water flows downstream and empties into Lake Wylie, where many of Belmont’s neighbors and friends live and play.

The reports, last night and this morning, coincide with a series of articles that the Observer is publishing on the Catawba River Chain of Lakes and its impact on the region.

We live in a fragile ecosystem that can easily be disrupted by weather patterns (drought, floods), development rates (run-off, sediment build up, pollutants entering the system), and over use (recreation access, draw down of water for municipal systems).

We are supportive of the Riverkeeper’s watchful eye, outspoken behaviors, and dogged determination.  

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