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Cornelius News

Cornelius Board: Keep Rhythm going

Nov. 8. By Dave Vieser. Following a meeting with town staff and commissioners, Kansas-based Rhythm Engineering got the green light to continue working with the town and the NCDOT on a new computerized traffic light system for Cornelius. Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam said it seemed like great technology and he wondered why the NCDOT hadn’t looked into it sooner.

Under the system outlined by Rhythm’s Mark Sullivant, traffic light cycle timing is based on real-time traffic conditions monitored by a series of cameras in each signal. They have already installed thousands of their automated signal systems, known as In-Sync, in a number of states, including Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia. Suspiciously missing from that list: North Carolina.

“My hope is that Cornelius will raise their hand and volunteer as a ‘pilot’ for this proven technology” said Kurt Naas, head of the anti toll Widen I-77 committee. He had originally contacted the town about this option.

Rhythm officials point to their installation of a series of signals along Highway 17 north of Charleston, SC as one example of the type of work they could do in North Carolina and specifically Cornelius. Sullivant said one major advantage their system has to existing signal synchronization systems such as those used by the DOT is that the signals do not have to be equal distances apart, giving the municipality much more flexibility in the programming process.

Town Salaries

Later, during Monday’s regular town board meeting, the board, by a 3-0 vote (Commissioner Duke was absent), approved the implementation of a salary compensation study which will increase some town workers salaries to a level more competitive with similar positions in surrounding municipalities.

The total annual salary cost to implement all the study recommendations is $153,422 which includes $14,577 to implement the study and $138,845 to implement the Phase 2 market study. That includes $39,190 to move employees to the minimum of the new ranges and $99,654 to award market adjustments to move employees closer to the market commensurate with their qualifications.

About $115,000 of the $153,422 relates to the police department, where turnover and retention have been a recognized problem.

Commissioner Dave Gilroy abstained, saying he was concerned about delving into salaries mid-budget. Pointing out that Cornelius had “perhaps the best police department in the country,” he nevertheless said the salary plan amounts to an “out-of-context ask” mid-budget. He said it would be better to look at the big picture during the budget process which gets under way next year. “I can support this if the chief comes back in two weeks,” the self-proclaimed budget haw said. The board voted 3-0 anyway.

Police Chief Bence Hoyle was ready for Gilroy, stating: “I wouldn’t be asking what I’m asking for if I didn’t have a funding source, like drug forfeiture funds.”

Watermark condos approved

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a conditional rezoning which will permit the construction of 48 luxury condominiums at the northern intersection of Kunkleman Drive and Knox Rod, to be known as Watermark Condos. Prices for the proposed condos will start in the $700,000 to $1 million range, said developer Jamie Rolewicz. “Right now, there is nothing in the luxury high end market in Cornelius. We want to change that so people can downsize without downgrading,” he said.

Each of the units will be about 3,000 square feet.

Mayor Chuck Travis expressed concern about six-story buildings at one point, as well as a lack of an overall rendering of the project and the relationship of the buildings to the topography and neighborhood. Travis said while it is a “really nice project,” it was unclear from the formal proposal what the project ultimately looks like. “I can’t believe this slipped by the planning department,” the mayor said.

However, Travis doesn’t get a vote and one of the other commissioners said it was the project’s “uniqueness” which ultimately sealed the unanimous approval. Rolewicz has previously built close to 50 high-end homes, as well as 500,000 square feet of medical office and industrial products with business partner Kevin Mahl. Together they own Champion Tire.

The rezoning is predicated on eight stipulations which the town planning board required. Those include protection of a large oak tree within the right-of-way during grading and construction of the project with tree protection fencing. The developer must also provide a revised maintenance agreement for the relocated regional storm water detention prior to the issuance of Certificates of Occupancy.

To accommodate the project, the town also approved the permanent closure of Kunkleman Drive west of Knox Road at Monday’s meeting.