South Fork River

Development to reshape Cramerton

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The new development called Villages at South Fork  along with any earlier plan simply called Lakewood Village will bring 1,409 “upscale” housing units to the Town of Cramerton along with a combined 170,000 square feet of commercial space over the next 5 to 7 years.

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Of course, this development impacts the whole area, and most importantly the school system and roads.

Hold on for this ride.

Belmont to get green this spring – Gaston towns tired of being brown

Bowing to the pressure of local small businesses dependent on public water for their livelihoods, the Belmont City Council water committee has put forth a motion to ease water restrictions in the area.

Residents would be able to hand water, drip irrigate trees, shrubs, and personal gardens.  If approved, the watering could be done during the entire day on those three days. “I don’t mind the hand held watering,” said Councilman Charlie Flowers”.

This action is occurring while other Gaston county towns are also loosening restrictions.

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It seems that the “squeaky” (re: “leaky”) wheel gets the grease.  If City Council passes the recommendation, residents still will not be able to water their lawns.

Other communities throughout the state are still working on further restrictions and closely tracking water use, Belmont gets a bit a rain and Poof! – no more drought — in some eyes.

We admit there has been some improvement in the drought, but the area is still in what is considered exceptional drought conditions. Typically late February and the month of March are “catch up” months in regards to rain. Not this spring – so far.

A special meeting next Monday evening (6:30 PM) will have this discussion and vote. Interested people should attend this meeting and see how council members who have landscapers maintain their personal yards vote on this issue.

More information links: System Status for Belmont

Belmont Water Use Tables

Facility   

Basin    Pop    2008-03-10    2008-03-03    2008-02-25    2008-02-18   
Belmont Catawba River 8,974   1,676,143 1,605,571 1,668,286

Older table dates

Facility   

Basin    Pop    08-02-04    08-01-28    08-01-21    08-01-14    08-01-07   
Belmont Catawba River 8,974 1,545,286 1,672,429 1,685,857 1,568,714 1,744,143

Sure doesn’t look like water restrictions have affected Belmont’s use of water. Going back to an earlier article where the Belmont Front Porch reported on the growing practice of new wells being dug throughout the county, the County Health Department repudiated the charge that new wells were an issue with groundwater.

With this information, it seems that local “businesses” would not be affected — according to the County health department — just dig a well.

Good for business, keeps the businesses off the backs of elected “leaders”, and keeps the progeny of local councilmembers with their jobs.

It’s all good.

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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.  

wil-neumann.jpg (Neumann)    pittenger.jpg (Pittenger)

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.

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.

lights.jpg

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.      

   

“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?

eagle-park-project.jpg     img_0070.jpg

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.

gov-easley-water-consumption-monitor-10-22-07.pdf

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.

water-use-during-droughts-and-water-supply-emergencies.pdf

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.

steelwood-property-development-case-study.pdf

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”.