you're reading...

Cornelius News

Cornelius dilemma: Growth brings conflicting opinions

April 17. By Dave Vieser. As Cornelius continues to grow, many well-meaning residents find themselves on opposite sides of two major issues: Managed growth and affordable housing.

Two separate town-appointed committees, the Growth Management Task Force (GMTF) and the Mayor’s Housing Study Committee, have issued recommendations to the Town Board, and town officials are working hard to review these reports without confusing the two for their residents.

Why reviews have been separated

“We originally planned to have the public input and potential approval process for the two conducted simultaneously,” explained Deputy Town Manager Wayne Herron. “However, we figured out very quickly that folks were confusing the two plans and mixing ideas and concepts.”

Wayne Herron

As a result, the town has postponed action on the Housing Plan until they have completed and adopted the GMTF recommendations.

What created the difference of opinion among residents?

How to manage growth became the leading issue in the town election two years ago, with four out of five commissioners losing their bids for re-election.

This has resulted in some concerns among those advocating more affordable housing for the town. For example, at a Town Board meeting in March, resident Willie Jones, while commending the GMTF efforts, asked the board to explore more density in some residential areas. “This would be an important way to enhance affordability and address the needs of more town residents,” he said.

Willie Jones

During the same meeting, Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell, while also commending the GMTF report, expressed concern over the height limits outlined in the proposal for downtown Cornelius.

Height rises as a major issue

The GMTF recommendation for downtown called for a height limit of three stories and 45 feet on the street stepping back to four stories and 60 feet. However, the version passed by the Planning Board differed from the committees proposal, calling instead for a case by case review rather than a firm height limit. It is unclear whether the Town Board will agree with the case by case approach or adopt the height limits included in the original task force report.

Where do we go from here?

At their April 3 meeting, the Town board raised additional questions and concerns about the GMTF recommendations. Those are going to be reviewed and discussed at a special meeting of the Town Planning Board on Tuesday April 25, at 4 pm in Town Hall.

Budget implications

The town is entering the budgeting period of their fiscal year. A two-day retreat was recently held and commissioners will be reviewing each department’s proposed spending, especially in light of the increase in tax values recently announced by the County Assessor.  The commissioners may elect to hold off on the housing review until a draft budget is adopted, which traditionally occurs in the first half of June. The housing report review is already running behind the originally projected review schedule.

Read the reports

Both the Growth Management Task Force Recommendations and the Mayor’s Housing Study Report may be found by accessing the town web site: www.cornelius.org. Use the search tool for either subject.