HUNTERSVILLE – The preliminary review of zoning ordinance changes that could be steps toward the development of a six-story hotel in the Birkdale neighborhood was the topic of a public hearing during the town board’s May 21 meeting.

Principal Planner David Peete walked commissioners through a petition from Trent Gustafson seeking amendments to three articles in the town’s ordinance. The ultimate purpose of the changes – although no specific plans have been finalized – would be to allow for increased hotel and motel heights in special-permit cases in an area zoned for highway commercial development.

The amendments are related to tentative plans for development in the area of the Birkdale Golf Course clubhouse just off N.C. 73 west of Interstate 77.

The zoning ordinance changes, Peete told commissioners, would not indicate approval of a specific project but would establish the parameters for how plans for the facility could be submitted for special-use permit consideration.

During the public hearing, several Birkdale area residents spoke in opposition to the proposal, saying there was still too much unknown about the proposed project. But Peete explained the ordinance changes are just an early-phase procedural step. Actual plans for new development would still be subject to a full planning staff and town board review process, which could also include additional stipulations linked to the project because of its special-use permit status.

The proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance were reviewed by the town’s Ordinance Advisory Board in April, and that committee voted unanimously to endorse the changes. The amendments were scheduled for planning board review on May 22.

Ada Jenkins funding

As part of the budget evaluation process, commissioners held a budget workshop prior to the May 21 meeting. During that session, Commissioner Brian Hines asked that the town increase its finance support for the Ada Jenkins Center community services facility in Davidson.

In a previous presentation to the board, Ada Jenkins representatives asked for $20,000. The budget package prepared by Interim Town Manager Jackie Huffman suggested a $10,000 contribution. Hines asked the town to provide the $20,000 requested.

Mayor Pro Tem Melinda Bales, conducting the meeting in the absence of Mayor John Aneralla, supported the idea, saying the center provides a wide-range of valuable services and that about one-third of the people the Ada Jenkins Center serves are from Huntersville.

But commissioners Mark Gibbons and Danny Phillips opposed the idea. Both cited a town policy governing how funds are distributed to outside agencies, and Phillips said “charitable giving is not a government responsibility.”

Phillips said he had “no doubt Ada Jenkins does great work” but said he believes it is up to individual people, not the town government, to support service agencies.

Commissioner Dan Boone proposed a compromise to raise the town’s contribution to Ada Jenkins to $15,000. The issue could be re-visited when the board begins consideration of adopting the budget next month.

Greenways and roads

Also during the budget workshop, commissioners honed in on some auxiliary items. During that discussion, Commissioner Nick Walsh said he wanted to be sure the town stayed committed to investing in greenways.

Walsh said the town has made progress on greenway projects and connections, and he suggested future decisions regarding the use of undesignated general fund dollars should continue to include consideration of greenway funding.

Huffman, also the town’s finance director, said the planned 2019 issuance of debt remaining from the 2012 municipal bond package might give the town some spending flexibility and that would be an appropriate time to review the town’s financial involvement in greenway projects.

Creating a new funding mechanism for school-related roads will also be a future conversation topic. Boone, referencing recent legislation exempting schools from road improvement responsibilities around new or expanded facilities, said he thinks the town should set aside funds to prepare for those situations.

Huffman said the town currently collects a $20 vehicle fee, and those funds are earmarked for transportation projects. She suggested the town’s annual planning retreat would be a good time to revisit that subject to see if commissioners want to begin designating funds from that fee for future school-related roadwork.

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