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Cornelius News

Guest Opinion: A vision for Cornelius

Chuck Travis / Cornelius Today file photo

GUEST OPINION | By Chuck Travis

Travis, a former mayor of Cornelius, is a Principal/Architect with the firm Housing Studio, PA. The firm is currently designing Junker Place on West Catawba and Caroline adjacent to Antiquity.

When we elect local leaders, we want them to listen, learn and make the best-informed decisions.  Their primary job is to keep us safe, be good stewards of our tax dollars, and protect our quality of life—in fact, we want them to enhance it. Most importantly, we want our Mayor and Commissioners to have a clear vision with high aspirations for our Town that will serve as guiding principles through their decision-making process while in office.

For years, our Town has struggled with how to manage growth. Thirty years ago, we were a small community of 3,000 that seemingly over-night grew into a town of over 30,000 residents. This is a pattern throughout all municipalities near large urban areas that are similar to Charlotte, and the pressure will only continue to mount as we manage growth.

Due to the geographic constraints of being a “lake town” with limited undeveloped land, our future is more re-development than new development.  Through land planning initiatives and a pro-actively involved town staff, we have identified how growth should occur for both commercial and residential uses.

Most importantly these initiatives inform where residential density can fulfill the vision of creating a new town center and its appropriateness in more urban areas due to existing infrastructure and amenities.

As an example, construction has begun on the Cain Arts Center, located in the heart of Cornelius next to Town Hall. It started as a vision from leaders and residents years ago when a bond referendum was passed overwhelmingly.  For the Cain Center/Arts District to be successful, our town will need patrons to participate and support the activities that it will offer.

This project will ultimately influence how the town center will grow and become the true “heart” of our town.  With additional investment of public and private dollars throughout our town, we will continue to see major transformations well beyond the town center.

During the last two years, our Town Board has approved multiple new developments. Most of these developments are mixed-use and include multifamily housing.  This can be controversial in a community like ours which is struggling with underperforming roads, rising school populations, and defining how density fits into our Town’s vision.

Alexander Farms, Sefton Park, Junker Place, Greenway Gartens and Caroline all include multifamily housing located in areas identified for more intensive growth.  Greenway Gartens and Caroline are part of a mixed-use development that is within walking distance to the Cain Center, includes Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, retail, townhomes, market rate apartments, +55 senior housing, condominiums, a future office building, and enhanced greenway connections and parks.

During the approval process, commissioners met with neighbors and applicants, held public hearings, and worked tirelessly with both sides to approve projects they believe represent responsible growth to further the goal of our town – walkable neighborhoods, new restaurants, retail options and future office space – all supported by having density in more urban areas.

During the local election Nov. 2, four incumbent commissioners were voted out of office, primarily because of their decisions to support these projects.  They range from a first-time commissioner to others who have served multiple terms in the position. 

They listened, they responded to neighbors’ concerns, and they made decisions they believed were in the best interest of our town.

It takes political courage to make tough decisions.  As your former Mayor of Cornelius during the highly controversial widening of I-77, I am no stranger to being put in the position of making a difficult decision as an elected official.

They—the four who lost—did their job.

Ultimately, time will be the true judge of how our town benefits from these decisions. I believe we are better positioned now more than ever to grow and prosper.

Cornelius is in an era of tremendous growth and possibility; numerous road improvements are being funded and underway, a new arts district and center will soon be completed, businesses are prospering, more people are moving to our community, construction of a new hospital campus is being planned, diverse options for housing are emerging, and an increase in phenomenal places to work and restaurants to enjoy are becoming a reality.

As the old saying goes, “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying, so get in motion and grow.”

After four incumbent commissioners lost their bids for re-election in November, Cornelius Today invited former Mayor Travis to share his perspective on growth and the decisions that must be made by elected officials.