Trees

City Council Action

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Last night’s city council meeting (January 7, 2008) was adequately attended by citizens and public workers.

The council approved the consent agenda which had a section dealing with the sewer upgrades in the “south outfall” area (near Amity Acres/Pinsto). An 18″ pipe would be installed that should be able to service a population of 35,000 in the peninsula area below the High School. Looks like the engineers are thinking way ahead.

Retired Firefighter, Robert Steve Hubbard, was recognized by the NC League of Municipalities for 36 years of service to Belmont. Richard Boyce made the presentation to a standing ovation by the crowd. Chief Altice took pictures.

During the public comment section, a gentleman who lives on Oak Street requested the city look into the cut-through traffic that people are using to bypass the crowded Central Avenue at busy times. People are turning down Harris Street (next to Charlie Martin’s house) and turning back up the hill onto Oak to bypass the stoplights at Myrtle/Central and Central/Main. He commented that, “…people are traveling in excess of 60 miles per hour up the hill…”. Council referred the man to Chief James for further discussion.

A representative from the Belmont Housing Authority updated the council on the Housing Authority activity. Council member, Martha Stowe was a member of that board, but had to resign upon election to City Council. There are two vacancies on the housing Authority Board. The mayor appoints the board. Mayor Boyce indicated that applications from interested participants could be directed to the Housing Authority. (P.O. Box 984, Belmont).

There was a text amendment to the Business Campus Development District. this would allow a business to have a drive-through window in this zoning designation as a conditional use. The purpose of the amednment was to accomodate Belmont Federal’s planned move to the corner of Planetree and Park Street (the old laundry/Backyard BBQ and adjacent lots) that were rezoned at the last council meeting.

There was a lengthy presentation and discussion to rezone a GR-4 piece of property at the river’s edge above the rail trestle to Business Campus Development/Conditional District to accomodate the Dickson and Whaley family requests to build a 42-slip marina and convenience store.

Piedmont Road property owners presented a petition to make sure that the road which is already fenced off at the old Spectrum plant, remain fenced off. Several residents of Edgemont were also in attendance and expressed concerns about traffic on the narrow roads of Edgemont, Linestowe, and River Road. Property rights advocate, Charlie Flowers, added language to the conditional use that no liquor be allowed or amplified music, except for special events. Once the property lines were established and the developer answered all the questions of council members, an affirmative vote was taken.

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The photo above shows the property that was requesting a rezone. The longest discussion revolved around the section of the photo from the left of the flat area to the little “beach area”. Apparently city and county maps do not show this as existing land, or that the land is withing County jurisdiction. The store, boat landing would built closer to the River Road in the cove area. The aluminum-covered boat slips (42 of them) would be built in the foreground of the photo.

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City council members also added language to allow for the development of a greenway along this property. It is unknown how that will work – property rights and all, you know. the drawing above shows the “added” land area under jurisdictional questioning. Longtime Belmontians know that the “added” land was ash and landfill over a long period of time. Many a great party was held in the picnic shelter and along the riverbank over the years.  

The anticipated big discussion of the evening, non-contiguous voluntary annexation of 55 acres with proposed access to Lower Armstrong Ford Road and South Point Road was withdrawn by the property owners. The council voted to continue the public hearing of the project until the February meeting.

Todd Neely and the architect for the Riverfront Park presented the final master plan for the new park down along East Catawba. The Belmont Front Porch had previously reported that work is progressing with the demolition of the two houses just behind Dale’s. The final plan shows a boardwalk with a small landing to launch paddle boats. A lot of green space and trails. The island, being referred to as “Irl’s Island” or Gilligan’s Island, — in reference to former council member, Irl Dixon, who has championed the acquistion of the island for a long time — was now included in the plan with “nature trails” weaving through the space. Council was asked to approve the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant application for a 50% match of a $1,000,000 project. Belmont would provide $500,000 and the State’s park trust fund grant would match this amount. A detailed budget was provided to the council members. Council approved the grant application.

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In other business, defeated council candidate, Richard Turner, was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Advisory committee to replace Jenny Granson who had resigned. Only two people has applied for the slot, with one person being disqualified because they lived outside the Belmont ETJ ( go figure).

Council also rearranged their committees and heard from the various council members of their special interest concerns. City Manager Barry Webb reported that city staff are encouraging the development of a Tree Committee and participation in the Tree City, USA program.  

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Bond Referendums

The Belmont Chamber of Commerce is endorsing both Bond Referendums on the November 6 ballot.

We are agreeing to this endorsement as well.

Vote yes for the $12 million Parks and Recreation Bonds.

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Vote yes for the $175 million School Bonds.

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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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8 candidates seek 3 open Belmont seats (Updated)

That’s It ? , that’s all the Observer could write?            vote.jpg 

They are not “open”, they are contested.

Is this all that we are going to get from the City Council candidates this year?

You have to buy a copy of the Thursday (10/18)Observer to get more information. To be fair, there is a bit more information from the generic questionaire that was sent to all the candidates.

becky-burch.jpg Becky Burch: “…she would encourage the development of one shuttered textile mill to be converted into a nursing home…”  and this helps the tax rate how?

“Burch said council members have the authority to ask developers to leave room for these areas, she said. They haven’t made that request yet though, she said.”  WHY haven’t the council members made those requests – YET ?

We are not making this up – these are quotes from the Charlotte Observer.

irl-dixon.jpg  Irl Dixon: “While some candidates say they are concerned about high property taxes, Dixon said the tax rate dropped last year and he expects it to do the same in the future because of the development of high-end, waterfront homes”.

Does this give credence to the term “economic-genocide” that East-enders and South Point residents are concerned about? Push out the existing homes to build McMansions along the lake, reducing visibility and accessibility. This is a concern here in this community.

charlie-flowers.jpg  Charlie Flowers:  “If re-elected, Flowers said he will push for businesses to fill the now empty textile mills”.

Too Late Charlie !  Most of the mills have been torn down or are in the planning stages to be torn down. We cite the examples of the Belmont Hosiery plant – now, called Belmont Reserve. We cite the Imperial Mill – now vacant, and its mill village called Hawthorne. We cite the Acme – now the space for development. This site even had a viable park area that the city acutally refused to use (Woodlawn) in the late 1990’s. How about what once was the Belmont Dyers, now torn down with development plans for high-end housing. Even the cotton warehouse that Stowe Mills used over on Eagle Road (a perfectly good pre-cast concrete structure) was torn down to make way for the clear-cutting that is now known as Eagle Village. Not even going to discuss in any detail the tearing down of the Eagle Mill for $500,000 unsold homes across from Belmont Central.

rfoulk.jpg  Ron Foulk: “…61-year-old political newcomer said council members have budget responsibility…”.

He’s not a newcomer — he has run for City council in at least 2 other elections. He also opposed the Amity Acres annexation into the city in the 1990’s. How can you trust someone who will be opposed to future annexations.

curtis-gaston.jpg  Curtis Gaston: “He would favor a building moratorium, especially on large subdivisions.”

Once again, the Pittenger/Duke(Crescent) property is already under design – that’s over 1,000 acres of voluntarily annexed land. The city has had jurisdictional control for over ten years on this property and until it was sold to State Senator Pittenger, nothing was done to guide its development direction.  Young Mr. Gaston needs to be more involved. He has promise but will he be committed in the long run?

stowemanorlogo.gif Martha Stowe: “…It [the land use plan] doesn’t prohibit developers, it just makes sure you’re working in tandem with developers,” she said. “As much development as we’re seeing in Belmont we’re going to have to do something other than what we have done…”

So, what are your plans and ideas?

Richard Turner:  “…The recent land-use plan lacks teeth, Turner said, and developers have been able to build as they wanted using conditional zoning. He said the city needs a public facilities ordinance that wouldn’t allow growth beyond the city’s ability to service it…”

Dennis Boyce: “Did not respond”

We hope the BannerNews and the Gazette will expand these questions.

We find it amazing that wherever you see a Burch sign in a yard, there is a Flowers sign right next to it. If it looks like a ticket (signs), sounds like a ticket (identical votes on all issues before council), it’s probably a ticket. Vote for one, get 2.  And we thought that the politics in Belmont was “non-partisan”.

“Stop the Watering of Lawns, Gardens – Period” – sez, Governor Easley

Speaking before the North Carolina League of Municipalities today, Governor Mike Easley has called for tighter water restrictions.

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(WCNC photo)

Ok, City of Belmont, why is it ok for this?:

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And This? :

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(BFP photos – Eagle Road and Assembly Street)

After much deliberation, the editorial board of the the Front Porch has decided to post photos of homes and businesses who feel the need to live above their neighbors, and the local regulations.

 

10/16 Update: “Official: No need for mandatory water restrictions” (Salisbury, NC)

And they want to tap the Catawba for their water source?

R U SERIOUS ?

 

Towns getting tougher on water violators

Good !

No legitimate reason to be overusing a resource in a time of crisis. There is no birthright to water a lawn or wash your car. Well, some will try to make a case for it anyway.

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Kevin Siers, a political cartoonist for the Charlotte Observer holds a “write a caption” constest each week. This is last week’s cartoon and winning caption:

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“Fishing in Lake Norman is great, but I only CMUD!” — William Owens of Marvin, NC

Weather is also not expected to break anytime soon. Hot and Dry – makes for raking leaves a lot easier.

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Duke: No one in region should be watering lawns

Area municipalities that aren’t already banning lawn watering should do so, because drought conditions are worsening, Duke Energy announced Thursday.

Duke declared a Stage 3 low inflow condition for the Catawba-Wateree River Basin, which affects municipalities surrounding Charlotte, including Gastonia, Lincolnton, Statesville and others.

Mecklenburg County became the first in the area to implement Stage 3 water restrictions last week, prohibiting all lawn watering. Duke wants other areas, which may be under lesser restrictions, to follow suit.

Duke says no local government should be allowing people to water their grass, but implementation and enforcement of those restrictions is up to each municipality.

More than half of North Carolina is now is the most severe category of drought.

A weekly report from the U.S. Drought Monitor says that 55 of the state’s 100 counties are now experiencing an “exceptional” drought. In all, 47 counties moved to “exceptional” from “extreme” drought conditions in the latest report.

Among those now listed in the worst category are the Triangle area counties of Wake, Johnston, Durham and Orange.

In the rest of the state, 31 counties are still in extreme drought, while 14 have moderate to severe drought conditions.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Video Link:WCNC Report, 10-3-2007

The following article is reporinted from the Charlotte Observer:

10 ways you can cope with our dry weather

NANCY BRACHEY

Garden Editor, Charlotte Observer

We’re gardening in a time of drought. It’s something we’ve experienced a lot over the past decade — including one long stretch lasting five years. For the first time, lawn watering is now prohibited in Mecklenburg County and elsewhere in the Piedmont. And we’re being encouraged to conserve water in a lot of ways, including gardening. So, we’ll have to learn to live with dry times and embrace the techniques and strategies that make for smarter gardening in a drought. Here are some:

1.Embrace native plants. They tolerate dry weather. Some of our best plants: eastern redbud, purple coneflower, eastern columbine and black-eyed Susans (below). For an excellent guide to landscaping with native trees, shrubs and perennials: www.ncwildflower.org.

2.Plan your landscape with water conservation in mind. Learn the water needs of plants before you buy them. For example, impatiens are thirsty plants for summer bedding, zinnias are not. Group plants that require steady watering together so you don’t water ones that don’t need it, such as many kinds of herbs and fuzzy-leaved perennials such as lambs ears.

3.Commit yourself to excellent bed preparation for your shrubs, flowers and vegetables this fall and next spring. Use compost and other organic materials to lighten clay soil and help it hold moisture without becoming soggy.

4. Use mulch, but not too much. Mulch your trees, shrubs and flower beds with pine needles, compost, leaf litter or finely shredded bark to conserve moisture. Mulch should be 2 to 4 inches deep. Don’t put mulch against tree trunks.

5.Create natural areas in places where it is difficult to grow grass, even under normal weather conditions. This includes under the canopy of large shade trees.

6.Don’t let clean water go down the drain. If you wait for the water to warm up before stepping in the shower, pop in a plastic bucket to catch this cool water. Apply the same technique in your kitchen with a large pitcher set under the faucet to catch any clean water that would otherwise go down the drain. Use it on your houseplants and container gardens.

7.Use ground covers. There are lots to choose from, including ajuga (below), hardy ferns, hellebores, creeping phlox and many more for sun or shade.

8.Use devices that drip, seep or ooze water in shrub and flower beds and vegetable gardens, where allowed, such as in Mecklenburg. Place these little hoses under mulch. Water will drip onto the root zones, and not be wasted by runoff. Best-known ones are called soaker hoses. Mulch reduces evaporation.

9.Get a rain barrel. This will capture rainfall (when it does fall) via a downspout directed into the barrel. Attach your hose to a faucet near the bottom. Barrels are sold widely. To see how they work: www.moriver.org/programs.html or, in greater detail, www.cwp.org/Community_Watersheds/brochure.pdf

10.Love your watering can. You’ll be more likely to use only what you need. Use it to water containers and newly planted shrubs and trees. You can put water on slowly, avoid runoff and let it flow exactly where you want it. Hand-watering is still allowed most places.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE GRASS?

• New restrictions issued this week prohibit grass watering in Mecklenburg County and other places. Meanwhile, you can still water flowers, shrubs and trees and containers.

• So, should you be worried about the state of your lawn? If your fescue lawn is in reasonably good shape, it should recover as the weather cools and some rainfall arrives to perk it up. But don’t expect the rapid and robust growth you would see with steady rainfall or regular irrigation.

• What next? Just hold tight. The weather may be good enough for lawn renewal work, such as overseeding, in late October and November. And if necessary, we’ll just wait until late February or early March.

Nancy Brachey’s column, Ask Nancy, will focus on drought questions in coming weeks. Send yours to nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com or call (704) 375-4892.