Cornelius board ushers in new members with new approach to growth

The new-look Cornelius Board of Commissioners will have to decide if they want a six-story building off Jetton Road extension. /Courtesy town of Cornelius

CORNELIUS – A new town board means new faces and perspectives, but for Cornelius, it also means a new approach to governing.

Four new commissioners were sworn in Dec. 6, joining incumbent Denis Bilodeau and Mayor Woody Washam. As the top vote-getter in November, Dave Gilroy has returned to the board to be the mayor pro tem and heads a group that ran on slowing the growth that’s been approved for the coming years. 

More than 1,000 new residences are slated for different parts of town, from Mayes Road to Westmoreland to north of Antiquity. Washam acknowledged the mindset of the new commissioners – and voters – that escalating growth was not acceptable.

“I want to confirm to all of you, we are moving forward,” he said. “Based on the citizen requests for a relook and pause in our residential development, I understand that’s important to you and going to be important to this board. I’ve asked staff to research the best approach we can possibly have.”

Part of the future growth, however, is associated with the Cain Center for the Arts. Its planned opening next December has ushered in great interest from restaurants and breweries, Washam said, but also a town center with greater residential density following changes to the land-use code.

“We will be looking into ways to implement that process and look at the depth and breadth, the risk and enforceability in what we do,” Washam said, quoting new Commissioner Michael Osborne. 

Newcomer Colin Furcht noted to citizens: “You were loud and clear to what you wanted to see. We’re going to stick to that.”

Among the other changes to the Board of Commissioners meetings, the time allotted for citizen comments has increased from 3 to 4 minutes, and the starting time has been pushed back to 6 p.m. It’s part of a greater focus on citizen input.

“The public input process is critically important,” Washam said. “It’s going to be widespread, well beyond the conversations we have in this room. It’s going to create opportunities we can get creative with and think outside of the box.”

Bilodeau will represent the town on the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, formerly chaired by Mike Miltich. 

Six-story building gets fresh eyes

The first order of business for the new-look board was getting their own public hearing for the proposed six-story building off Jetton Road extension.

Along a corridor in need of road improvements and full of empty lots, Skadoosh Properties hopes to add a building to Bethel Church Road with four stories of commercial and two with eight total condos to make the tallest building in town.

Deputy Town Manager Wayne Herron posited that the drop in elevation from West Catawba Avenue would make it seem comparable to the three-story UPS building to the north. Neighbors voiced concerns it would set a precedent for future buildings of the same height.

“If it’s there at six stories we will refer to it,” Herron confirmed to the board. “You can make a decision whether you think it fits or not. It’s the common sense, that’s what we’ll talk about.”

The property is part of a multi-building complex originally approved in 1999, but the latest rezoning is to take it from three to six stories. Representing Skadoosh, Cornelius native Justin Ckezepis hopes to put a restaurant on the bottom floor.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity here,” he said. “It’s needed a lot of love. It’s an incredible time in our commitment to create uniqueness in our town.”

Cornelius’ Board of Commissioners

Denis Bilodeau (incumbent)

Colin Furcht 

Dave Gilroy

Michael Osborne

Todd Sansbury 

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