by Brett Freeman

The Huntersville Town Board voted Monday, after a long debate, to approve a consulting agreement with Planning Works LLC, of Leawood, Kan., to update the town’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for an amount not to exceed $9,600.

The APFO, which was first adopted in 2007, is a way of ensuring that residential growth in Huntersville doesn’t outpace the town’s ability to provide services, specifically fire safety and police services and park space, by setting minimum standards, i.e. a minimum number of police officers per 1,000 residents, a minimum amount of park acreage per 1,000 residents. If a proposed development would exceed that standard, developers can abandon the project, build it in phases over time to allow service levels to improve to required levels, or, in the case of park space, provide the needed capacity themselves.

The debate was initiated by Commissioner Danny Phillips, who took issue with an out-of-state firm being hired to do the work.

“This is one of those things that kind of gets under my skin,” Phillips said. “Here’s something that we have more than qualified people here in North Carolina, and why would we be hiring a consultant from Kansas instead of practicing kind of what we preach and shop locally?”

Principal Planner Zac Gordon answered that when the request for proposals for a consulting firm to craft the APFO was sent out in 2007, only two firms responded: Planning Works, and a firm based in Maryland.

“There aren’t very many firms that specialize in this,” Gordon said.

Commissioner Charlie Jeter amended his motion to include language calling for the contract to be bid out the next time the APFO is updated. The motion passed 5-1. Commissioner Sarah McAulay voted against it on the grounds that it binds a future town board.

The board also approved settlements with three homeowners who had contested the town’s offer for right-of-way acquisition along Old Statesville Road. The town had offered from $2,500, $3,750 and $4,500 for the right-of-way access, which was needed to move utility lines underground. It ended up settling for $20,000, $25,000 and $27,500, respectively, with the property owners.