Transit plan divides rural communities
by Staff Writer
by Josh Lanier
HUNTERSVILLE – Plans to connect Vance Road and N.C. 73 more than two decades from now drew more than 50 people to the Huntersville town board meeting Tuesday, Sept. 6.
At issue was a plan – known as Option 3 on a long-range transportation plan looking toward 2035 – which would widen both roads to four lanes and move N.C. 73 down to connect with Vance Road near its intersection with Beatties Ford Road. The aim of that plan is to draw traffic away from Beatties Ford Road, reducing traffic congestion on that major north-to-south connector. More than 20,000 people use those roads each day now, and that number is expected to grow exponentially as the area continues to grow, leaders said.
More than 10 residents spoke in favor of Option 3 with only a handful speaking against it. Those opponents want a plan that would widen N.C. 73 but not move it.
The discussion has been ongoing for nearly a decade, with residents lining up on either side of the issue. The biggest concern, residents said, was how the decision – and lack of one – had affected their property values. Residents were unsure if a road would be built through their neighborhoods or widened to take part of their front yards.
Commissioners Ron Julian and Sarah McAulay voted for Option 3, Charles Jeter and Danae Caulfield opposed it, saying it was still too early to vote. When Mayor Jill Swain broke the tie, supporting Option 3, the room erupted into applause.
Many opponents asked commissioners to wait until after the town’s elections, so a full board could vote on the motion. A seat vacated by former Commissioner Ken Lucas remains empty.
“I just don’t think it was time to vote on this,” Jeter said after the vote. “There was no reason to rush on this right now, and to say that (the state’s Department of Transportation) we’ll do this plan is misleading. It’s still so far away with so many things left to be sorted out and fixed on this plan. Chances are they’re not going to go ahead with this … I couldn’t support something that was just misleading residents.”
Huntersville Transportation Planner Bill Coxe told commissioners the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, the area’s governing body over transit issues could amend or scrap the plan.
“This is long-range planning,” he said. “Things can change, and if you’ve been following this issue for the entire time it’s been discussed, you know that.”
Visit Lake Norman agreement
passes first hurdle
Commissioners unanimously approved the proposed interlocal agreement between the three north Mecklenburg towns and Visit Lake Norman.
The new agreement, which has been the subject of heated discussion for eight months, gives the towns more oversight of the tourism agency but requires the towns not withhold tourism taxes due the agency.
Visit Lake Norman is funded through a portion of hotel-motel and prepared food tax money generated in the area.
Commissioners approved the new interlocal agreement contingent upon Cornelius and Davidson also backing the agreement. Davidson commissioners are expected to discuss the interlocal agreement on Tuesday night, and Cornelius is scheduled to discuss it later this month.
As part of the new agreement, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce would have to give up its veto-power over Visit Lake Norman’s bylaws and structure. Several members of the chamber board have said they have the votes to approve it.
Funeral home asks
to build crematorium
Directors of the Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home want to build a crematorium, but currently, the town does not have zoning ordinances governing such a facility.
Town staff presented a measure Tuesday night during a public hearing that would allow the funeral home, at 16901 Old Statesville Road, to build such a facility. Currently, morticians must drive to Charlotte for cremation services, said John Kepner, one of the brothers who owns the funeral home.
Huntersville resident Janet Spain lives near the funeral home and said she worries about possible odor and emissions from the crematory’s chimney, but Kepner said emissions are odorless and colorless.
Sam James, another funeral home licensee in the area, spoke in favor of the crematorium and confirmed that emissions wouldn’t be noticeable.
But commissioners were wary about allowing the facility without more study about the emissions and what sort of separation the town should require between crematoriums and other properties. Town staff will return to the board with a report.
Huntersville to see the light
Commissioners voted 3-1 to allow flood lights at loading docks and increase the height of lights in parking lots.
ABB, the company building a large facility in the north Mecklenburg industrial park, asked the town for permission to install large flood lights pointed at its loading bay doors once the facility is constructed along N.C. 115 next year. As part of that request, ABB asked the town to increase the permissible height from 30 to 40 feet. Commissioners had no issue with the floodlights as they are only allowed at light or heavy manufacturing zoned areas, but took issue with the height increase.
That increase would be allowed at commercial properties.
Commissioners Jeter and Caulfield said they feared a shopping center or business near a residential areas might put up 40-foot light poles, blinding its neighbors, but staff said the increase would still need to meet strict light capture standards.
The increase would mean fewer lights would be erected – the higher the light the more area it covers – and would save businesses money on electric bills.
Staff members assured commissioner town rules would prevent extra light spilling into neighborhoods from the higher lights.
Caulfield provided the only dissenting vote.