Cornelius Food Lion parking lot Main Street

Townhomes may be built on Mulberry Street behind Food Lion, which has raised concerns over parking at the shopping center.

CORNELIUS – Some residents are concerned about parking if six townhomes are built behind the Main Street Food Lion.

Investors Resource Management applied to rezone 0.32 acres at 19834 Mulberry St. to build a row of “higher-end townhouses” that will be 1,800-2,000 square feet and sell for around $300,000, according to company representatives.

Herron planning for a stronger tomorrow

Wayne Herron

The property, which backs up to the rear of the shopping center, has been approved for homes previously.

During the project’s first public hearing Feb. 4, Deputy Town Manager and Planning Director Wayne Herron said 11-12 townhomes were approved as another phase of the multifamily residences already on Mulberry Street; however, they weren’t constructed and the conditional use application expired.

Since then, the zoning changed to town center, which doesn’t allow townhomes, but that designation is something the planning board was going to recommend changing, Herron said.

“There are certain land-use areas in town that we want to change because we want both sides of the streets to match,” he said. “It was considered to be inappropriate to have town center on one side of Mulberry, where there could be businesses, and residential on the other.”

The new application has half the number of houses previously approved because town staff recognizes current problems with on-street parking there and felt the area would be better suited for lower density, Herron said.

The proposal shows three groups of two three-story townhomes. They are expected to be shorter than the live-work buildings fronting Catawba Avenue on the other side of the shopping center, Assistant Planning Director Aaron Tucker said.

Ten people attended a community meeting last month to discuss the project.

“The main concern was parking,” Tucker said, adding that nearby homes mainly have on-street parking that has posed problems. “With this site, we’ve mandated all of the parking spaces be on the property.”

Each home has a two-car garage with an additional six parking spaces near open space in the middle of the property to minimize the amount of on-street parking.

Mulberry townhome resident Mike Benson said that may not be enough.

“There is nowhere to park if you live at Mulberry. We’re finding residents are parking at the Food Lion parking lot,” he said. “Everybody’s concern is the parking. ... You are not getting fire trucks there with people parked on the side of the road.”

The board discussed another potential issue with the plan.

“That’s got to be the ugliest view of the town,” Commissioner David Gilroy said.  

Investors Resource Management Partner Dave Knapp said a retaining wall and fences will be installed, plus the home plans take the surroundings into consideration.

“We are designing the units to take the view from the back,” he said. “There are a lot of windows on the front and balconies over the garage. We’ll discuss if that’s feasible since it’s over the sidewalk area. Otherwise, we’ll have  a faux balcony with french doors that open out toward Mulberry to focus on the view that way. The only two windows on the back have obscured glass.”

Planning board members are expected to discuss the matter in March before it returns to commissioners.

Bailey Road to be realigned

Commissioners approved a municipal agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation Feb. 4 to realign Bailey Road from Pool Place Drive to U.S. 21.

The sharp curve has been an issue, Town Manager Andrew Grant said, and the construction of a new road to straighten it out will offer “tremendous benefit transportation- and economic-development-wise.”

NCDOT is leading the project, though Cornelius officials must approve each part of the process. The town is matching $3.6 million in grant funding through voter-approved bonds to pay for the $7.1 million project.

BRT gets the green light

Red Line commuter rail continues to be sidelined since CATS staff have a “difference of opinion” when it comes to using the O-Line track with Norfolk Southern, CATS CEO John Lewis said during a presentation to the board, but there are other options in bus rapid transit.

The regional Metropolitan Transit Commission is working on a refreshed 2030 transportation plan and seek feedback from north corridor towns. The proposal is to advance BRT with enhanced park-and-ride locations, direct connections and more-comprehensive routes and schedules, CATS representatives told the board. The Red Line is still considered a long-term goal.

Cornelius commissioners voted unanimously for MTC representative Mayor Woody Washam to vote in favor of the plan CATS staff recommended.

Commissioner Kurt Naas said the officials have come to the right conclusion on how to move forward. Gilroy noted he supports the short-term plans but not the Red Line.

The CATS presentation is scheduled for the Davidson town board meeting Feb. 12 and Huntersville Feb. 18, with the goal for MTC to approve it Feb. 27.

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