Mickey Price

Pittenger property plans shown

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The Observer is reporting today that the plans for the 1,100 acres below South Point HS have been shared with city planners.

Almost 3,000 new homes are planned, along with a 36-acre “regional” park, and an additonal 30-acres for an elementary school site.

It is great to see their plans, but some of the land reserved for the park and the school site are basically very difficult and expensive terrain to develop.

It is both a good news and bad news type of story. The good news is that they plan a long term build out of the project — 15 to 20 years; The bad news is that the road plan is also a bit questionable. It is relying heavily on the use of South Point Road and an unfunded “spine” road closer to the South Fork River, connecting with Armstrong Ford Road(Main Street) near Timberlake and connecting to the Garden Parkway.

We hope that this particular road is built BEFORE the proposed houses and towncenters are approved. If you think South Point Road is busy now, wait for this development to take off.

Unfortunately — well maybe fortunately — the state builds roads, Senator Pittenger has a very cozy relationship with the development firms around the state. We would not be too surprised if this “spine road” gets fastracked. As former city councilmember Irl Dixon once stated, the TIP ( transportation Improvement Program) had already designated that a road needed to be built and overlayed a road path. The Comprehensive Land Use Plan by the City of Belmont accepted this overlay, so all things considered, the road could be a go…

Hopefully, the funding will be forthcoming from the state legislature. We know that Representative Wil Neumann of Belmont is supportive, if not for re-election purposes at the very least.  

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Other good news on this project is the developer. Haden Stanziale is a recognized leader in large tract development. The project will certainly be first class. The bad news about this developer is that it contributes to the notion of economic cleansing concerns that many in-town and long-time residents have expressed.

When the property taxes on revaluation of property goes sky high two things happen. Pleople sell their property, or they can’t afford the tax bill. In this “bubble-burst” period of housing slowdown, both the resale of existing homes and new homes may help keep the tax values from rising too quickly.

We have a county commission that is very averse to raising pennies on property, but willing to hit the sales tax side for “good causes”  — this is a whole ‘nuther story completely so we won’t talk about it right now.

Gaston Co. to consider sales tax increase for schools

The Gaston County commissioners are planning to discuss a request by the County Schools to add a 1/4 cent sales tax to help build and maintain the school system.

This will be an interesting discussion because the residents just approved a $175 million bond referendum last November, and the schools have a multi-million dollar shortfall from the previous bond funds.

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The “no-tax-but-will-fund-silly-projects” county board of commissioners will be televised tonight for your entertainment. Of course, it will be on the non-consent portion of the agenda after the consent agenda approves over $1.7 million of money including additional “donations” to DSS.

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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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.

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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Courthouse Parking Fees begin November 12

Let’s see, at every property revaluation, let’s lower the tax rate by 3 or 4 cents, and tap into the reserve funds to balance the county budget.

Then, we can justify fee-for-service where only those who use the service have to pay the fee.

It is simple, democratic, and fair for all who would be using the service, right?

Well in this case the newly instituted parking fees for “close in” parking near the courthouse in Gastonia have a few detractors who don’t like the idea of walking or being inconvenienced by a few extra feet.

In the case of attorneys who frequent the courthouse, we are sure that they have already figured a way to incorporate their “inconvenience” into their fee structures. So, who really loses and who really wins in this instance?

Did the county consider the parking “spread” in their plans when the new courthouse was built? They considered future use of the courthouse — by building an additional floor for future use. But where to put all the cars that people drive to get to the shiny edifice? Well, let’s plan for a parking deck — and figure out how to pay for it sometime later.

As our attention turns from municipal elections to county-related issues this might be one question to ask candidates and incumbents for any office. As with all OPM (other people’s money) questions, what are your plans to manage future costs and maintenance?

We feel that the $80-100,000 per year fee generation is a bit overly optimistic on county staffers budget estimates, and who is to say that this particular designation for offsets will hold past any election rhetoric?

As for us poor people who occasionally need to go to the court house, the one-block walk or the cross-over from the Main Avenue free parking side of town is not that big of a deal, even for the in-and-out errands.

County approves $200,000 for college driving track

Ok, so the county doesn’t have money to spend on a Senior Citizen’s Center, and has to charge for parking at the Courthouse, but can unamimously approve a driving track for county police?

The commissioners make the Parks and Recreation Department run through all kinds of hoops to get funding for a project that would affect thousands of people, and yet, has little comment on projects that affect a few.

Gaston County may eventually try to recoup some of its investment by approaching other area police departments that will benefit from the track.” — a quote from the Gazette article.

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We believe that’s wishful thinking on the part of the county commissioners. Their track record on “investments in the community” is not so good. It seems that it would have been more prudent to secure the collaborations and commitments to use the facility BEFORE approaching the taxpayers for money.

But again, people like Tom Keigher and Mickey Price like to spend OPM (“Other People’s Money”).

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