rants

Skatepark In Belmont

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(Lower Tennis Courts at Davis Park) 

Last night, well, late last night, we were sitting on The Front Porch, and some of kid’s friends were talking about the Belmont Skatepark that was discussed more than a couple of years ago. Yes, in the 77 degree, 11:30 PM nighttime heat.

Anyway, the teens were asking about what happened. We explained to them that the city council had approved a bond referendum to designate funds for the skatepark construction. One young man, said, “in my lifetime?”, “yes” was the response. The original location was supposed to be the lower tennis courts at Davis Park, who knows now what the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will do…

$115,000 of the proposed $12 million dollar Parks and Recreation Bond package will be directed to this project. Not in time for one of the best skaters in Belmont though, Phillip Nguyen.

The space is a great place to put a park such as this. We hope that it will be dedicated to Phillip.

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The National Whitewater Center

(Steve Shipley, courtesy of Youtube)

Eastern Gaston County should be excited about the opening late last winter of the US National Whitewater Center . The center is located just across the Catawba River in Mecklenburg County from the Stowe Family YMCA in Mt. Holly.

However there are more than a few folks still fussin’ about the park.

The Whitewater Center is rapidly becoming a major regional and national destination site for “outdoors people”. In July alone, over 70,000 people visited to raft, kayak, climb, and mountain bike. In late July, an international competition for teens was held. That competition was the world championships for sprint kayaking. 

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Several of the high school and college aged children of our Belmont and Mt. Holly neighbors have summer jobs at the Center. From all reports, it is a very busy and exciting place.

But, people are still upset that Belmont and Mt. Holly governments invested in the underwriting or “underpinning” of the non-profit organization. Over at the Gaston County Watchdog, a politically conservative rant forum, people are still angry.

What occurred was the local governments pledged funds to the park to cover any operating losses for a set number of years. Mt. Holly pledged a million dollars ($1,000, 000), Belmont pledged $500,000. Several other communities pledged funds including Gastonia and Charlotte. Everything is based on a percentage of “investment”. If the park were to operate at a loss of, let’s say, $1,000,000 in the first year, the participating cities would cover their percentage share to bring the operating account back to zero. We can’t remember the percentages of the overall participation rates, but even IF the Mt. Holly percentage would be 10%, their share would equal $100,000.

With all that being said, the center has had six months of surplus operating revenue that should balance the losses incurred when the opening was delayed by the road issue. So, it is possible that the cities may not even be called to “pony-up” for first year funding.

None of us care for increased taxes or anything that could potentially take money out of our pocket without our expressed permission. That is why we have an elected, representative government at all levels. There is too much suspicion and hand-wringing. That is not even enough to consider a $.01 addition to the property tax rate. Area towns even cut tax rates this summer due to increased property valuations.

We do have a community responsibility to share in economic development costs, and an expectation to share in its rewards. In this case, there are tourism dollars spent in Belmont and Mt. Holly. Restaurants in both towns are seeing vistors, the ABC store in Mt. Holly certainly is doing well. People have also secured summer and permanent jobs.  

So why are a few making a fuss?

Belmont City Council Approves Land Plan

By a vote of 3-2, the Belmont City Council approved the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP, or the Plan) last evening after months of public hearings, committee meetings, and presentations.

Well, people quickly gathered on the Porch last night, in the hot, sticky, bug-noise filled neighborhood to discuss the comments made by council members.

It was a very interesting and civil debate. Thank you Mr. Mayor, Richard Boyce, for keeping it on task.

“Property Rights” activists, Charlie Flowers and Becky Burch, stuck to their convictions that planning and foresight cost property owners their right to develop their property as they see fit. Seems ok at first blush. We all want to get the best for our investments. What is different here is the continued pandering for support by their constituency trying to label planning policies and efforts as a way of “…discriminating against poor people.”(Flowers), and that, “…it’s just not right…”(Burch). More on the comments below.

It is a shame that two members of council who are seeking re-election this year are saying in essence by their votes, “we don’t think that planning for the future is important”.

The days of the rivers keeping out growth are past. Once I-485 was opened, the drive to Ballentyne, South Park, and even to the Charlotte Motor Speedway ( Lowe’s Motor Speedway), takes less than half the time. So, the carpetbaggers and local speculators are willing to buy up and sellout. In the view of the porch-sitters last night, failing to plan is planning to fail. With all due respect to former Police Chief Flowers and Mrs. Burch, flying by the seat of your pants only leads to bumpy landings.

Pineville failed to plan. As you drive in from Hwy 51 or even from South Boulevard, you have to ask, where did the town go? Yeah, they got lots of tax revenue, but it seems the only benefit was what, less tax rate?

Other interesting comments:

Becky Burch, “… people in this city are not interested in planning or they would have shown up to the meetings…”.

Unfortunately, Becky only came to one, maybe two, of the public hearings and general meetings. She stayed away from the others because her mind was made up before the process took place. Obviously, she still takes marching orders from the former mayor who definitely prefers to be reactive rather than proactive.  

The current mayor’s response to Becky, “…we need to balance property owner’s rights and responsibilities…”, and, “…this plan allows for continued work…”.  

Irl Dixon, who is also running for re-election, expressed some concern over the decision to use existing transportation maps and plans rather than, in his words, “something new…”. Donal Simpson, whose company, HNTB, consulted on the plan, replied that the connector roads through the eastside of the peninsula were not viable due to the existing development. The westside “Belmont-Mt. Holly Connector” provides for another major artery parallel south to the South Point Road.

We guess that some people just don’t get it. 

Mayor Boyce through the entire process has kept the council, the task force, and city staff, on task by repeating that this Plan is a “tool in our toolbox”.

Mr. Flowers did have one valid concern, but his drumbeat is wearing thin on many of our Belmont neighbors. His concern was the willingness of the Plan to focus “affordable housing” options in North Belmont.

We too, have that concern, but Charlie, you lost many of us when you stated, or more appropriately — mumbled, ” I grew up in North Belmont, and was discriminated against…”. Come on Charlie, you were the Chief of Police for how many years? If there was any discrimination, your department defined it for us.

Well the Plan is approved, and yes, there is a lot of work to still be done. By North Carolina General Statutes, a huge hurdle (the lack of a plan) to a variety of resources has been overcome. Even though the council was split on this issue, the meat will come with how we as a community wield this tool.

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Thursday’s Observer (8/9/2007) article link: Belmont approves guide for its growth, remember you heard it here first. 😉