Cornelius launching summer lake patrol
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – By the Fourth of July weekend, the Cornelius Police Department will launch a daily boat patrol that will regularly cruise the town’s lake coastline between 10 a.m. and 3 a.m.
With local schools out for the summer, the department’s school resource officers can supplement regular patrols, making the lake patrol possible. It will continue until classes start again in about six weeks.
The town acquired a used 24-foot, “rough water” boat for $15,000 and added $12,000 in equipment, including a police radio and computer, blue lights and radar that enables officers to patrol the lake safely at night, Police Chief Bence Hoyle said. The same boat new would have cost about $80,000, Hoyle said.
At the regular town board meeting Monday, June 20, Hoyle told commissioners six officers are training to use the boat now, and they’ll start training cruises on the lake next week. Hoyle said he also hopes the town will sign an interlocal agreement with the county, permitting Cornelius officers to begin enforcing the county’s noise ordinance.
The boat patrol is the latest step the town is taking to respond to lake residents’ complaints about problems on the water. The most recent rash of complaints came Memorial Day weekend when a few people taking part in a large boat-rafting gathering blasted nearby homes with profanity-laced music from theater-size speakers.
The town eventually hopes to get legislative approval to extend the jurisdiction of town’s ordinances onto the water, so officers could enforce the town’s own noise ordinances. The town’s noise rule is based on “reasonableness” and relies on an officer’s judgment.
For now, however, the town’s ordinances stop at the shoreline, and Hoyle told commissioners he hopes his officers will gain authority to enforce the county noise rules.
When the Cornelius boat is on the water, the patrol will stick primarily to coves. Officers will look for drunken boaters, people operating boats dangerously and try to deter thefts in coves, either from docks or homes entered from the lakeside, Hoyle said.
Officers will vary their patrol times on the water, and Hoyle is purposely not committing to a patrol schedule because offenders will work around it.
But even if the boat officers are patrolling on land, they can respond to a lakefront call within 10 minutes and get on the water quickly, Hoyle said.
The town continues to negotiate an agreement with county and city officials to allow Cornelius to take over patrols on Lake Norman year-round from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Under such an agreement, the town would get some of the special law enforcement tax levied on unincorporated areas to provide the extra staff and equipment needed for the patrol.
In other business Monday night, Cornelius commissioners:
• Unanimously approved Discovery Village Preschool’s rezoning request to expand its building at 20101 Knox Road and the number of children it serves. Owners Brett and Kelly Masters are adding a second story to the building and will be able to serve up to 65 children.
• Decided to seek bids from consultants who will help the town prepare a development plan for the area around the Catawba Avenue exit on Interstate 77. As the N.C. Department of Transportation plans to install an innovative Diverging Diamond interchange at the Catawba Avenue/I-77 intersection, town officials say the changes could drive new development in that area and the rest of the town. So they want to meet with surrounding landowners, as well as experts in development to propose the best use of the new road configuration.
Senior Planner Jason Abernethy said the consultant will provide expertise on traffic studies, market analysis and graphic design to provide detailed layouts of buildings. Commissioner Dave Gilroy questioned the wisdom of spending as much as $60,000 – the maximum the town will spend – but a majority said the consultant’s expertise is a solid investment in devising a good plan.
Working with state highway officials, Commissioner Jim Bensman has suggested the town might be able to open the eastern part of the Lake Norman to boat traffic and possibly some type of convention center complex.
Town officials hope to finish the “small area plan” before September, and Abernethy said residents will get a chance to see and comment on the proposal during the planning process.