by Brian Carlton

CORNELIUS – Cornelius Residents should decide the town’s future, not the federal government. That was the verdict from town commissioners Aug. 20, as they unanimously voted, with Chuck Travis absent, to reject the CONNECT proposal.

CONNECT Our Future is a federal program, offering regions a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as service donations totaling $3 million from the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In exchange, towns agree to and plan together as a region, rather than each municipality shaping it’s own future.

“This is about taking our land-use plan and telling us how to grow our town,” Mayor Pro Tem Lynette Rinker said. “It really is an insidious socialistic agenda.”

The CONNECT plan calls for towns and cities to work together to focus on future needs, building the local economy and dealing with existing conditions. The group evaluates and then works to remove any barriers to business growth, while developing strategies to help revitalize any old commercial or industrial sites.

But the concern for Cornelius is that what others feel is good for the region may not be good for the town. By allowing other people to have a say in future planning, commissioners feel it opens the possibility of the town being forced to make decisions in the future.

“It’s not to discount the need to participate locally, but it’s all about local control,” Cornelius mayor Jeff Tarte said. “It’s dangerous to head down this path. It’s acquiescing control.”

Commissioner David Gilroy also questioned why, at a time when funding is being cut for other programs, do local governments need to sign up for a program to do what they’re already doing.

“I’m convinced it’s a waste of money,” Gilroy said. “There are all kinds of ways government bodies like this one coordinate regionally.”

Cornelius becomes the only Lake Norman area town to reject the CONNECT proposal. Davidson, Huntersville and Mooresville have adopted the proposal.