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Opinion: Mayor Washam responds to Dave Gilroy’s newsletter

Growth is a good problem to have, considering the alternative. But how growth is handled is a major issue during the upcoming Town Board elections. Mayor Woody Washam, who is running unopposed for a third term as mayor of Cornelius, responded to a letter former Commissioner Dave Gilroy sent to his constituents last month. Gilroy is running for his old seat on the town board.

To read Gilroy’s letter, click here.

Here is Washam’s response.

In this election season, we are all faced with choices of who to vote for your Town Board. I am running unopposed in this election, and I greatly appreciate the support that has been given to me as I look forward to serving our wonderful Town for another term. My fellow incumbents, five Commissioners who are running for re-election have done a superb job. We work together as the Town Board. Have there been difficult and challenging decisions? Certainly. Have the five incumbents made decisions and set goals with the best interest of Cornelius in mind? Absolutely. I want to focus primarily on growth and development, and how all this relates to our citizens’ top two priorities of Public Safety and  Transportation.


Balanced growth – This Town Board’s approach to development is balanced growth. Allowing for the development of a mix of commercial and residential is healthy for our Town’s future. Over the past 5 years, the Town Board has approved a balance of development projects: 13 commercial/non-residential projects, 3 mixed-use projects (combined commercial & residential projects), and 10 residential projects.

The Town Board is serious about commercial development. Over the past 5 years, the Town Board has approved 381,000 square feet of commercial development, with a combined estimated tax value of $237 million (including mixed-use developments). Yes, the Town Board has approved residential, but it has a record of approving many high-end residential projects that sometimes generate more property tax revenues than some commercial projects.

One example is the Watermark Condominium project, a project with a tax value of $66 million. Another example is the Mayes Meadow project which will bring higher-end homes and estimated tax value of $139 million.

The Town Board has emphasized the importance of increasing commercial inventory by approving commercial projects that will bring value to our Town, such as an expansion to LKN Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, estimated tax value of $62 million and will also bring additional jobs to our local economy. Another example is the CD Nantz commercial and retail center along West Catawba that will bring 54,000 square feet of development.

Equally important is the approval of mixed-use developments, those that have a commercial and residential component. An example is the Alexander Farm project that will bring 120,000 square feet of commercial, 13 acres of open space & future parks, with an estimated tax value of $68 million. The Venue is another mixed-use project that will bring a much-desired high-end restaurant with outdoor seating to our active downtown.

It’s also important to note that while the population growth of Cornelius was  approximately 136% since 2000, that growth has slowed significantly since the mid-2010s to a projected 0.6% population growth per year over the next 15 years. In fact, Cornelius is projected by far to have the slowest population growth of any town in Mecklenburg County.

Future development – The Town Board will soon be considering development projects that will bring tremendous benefits to our community. The type of proposed projects that are currently going through the zoning approval process are balanced, as well: 4 commercial/non-residential projects, 3 mixed-use (combined commercial & residential) projects, and 2 residential projects. Also on the horizon is Atrium Lake Norman Hospital. Finally, acute & specialized medical services right in our backyard. This Town Board has supported this project since inception due to the value that it will bring to our Town. The hospital represents an economic development driver, as the Town will start to see other commercial development projects come as a result of the hospital.

Growth’s impact on our Town’s tax rate – Balanced and smart growth brings additional tax revenues to the Town while minimizing the need to increase the property tax rate. Saying “no” to a balanced growth approach will lead to a heavier reliance on the Town’s property tax rate to fund the Town’s operations and capital projects.

Solving our transportation issues – The current and previous Town Boards have worked tirelessly to resolve our traffic issues. Relative to development & growth, this Town Board understands how traffic is generated: It’s a common misconception that residential development creates more traffic than commercial. A typical commercial development will bring more traffic than a typical residential development. In other words, we cannot solve our traffic issues by not approving residential projects.

So, how has this Town Board been working to solve it?

—By requiring developers to construct road & intersection improvements that are recommended by traffic impact analyses of proposed developments.

—By advocating and working with NCDOT, the Governor’s Office, the State Legislature, and CRTPO to deliver 13 NCDOT road and intersection projects that total $419 million. Projects such as improving the intersection of US 21 & Catawba Ave. and the widening of West Catawba are acquiring right-of-way now so that construction can commence. A widening project like West Catawba will increase the capacity by 150%. That’s a significant increase in the current traffic volume capacity of 20,000 vehicles per day to 50,000 vehicles per day.

—By prudently leveraging Town funds to advance these road projects: For every $1 of Town funds invested in NCDOT projects, we receive over $14 of NCDOT funds.

—By constructing local road projects that have big impact on local traffic, including improving the capacity of the NC 115/Bailey Rd. intersection and Nannie Potts Lane. that allows locals to travel east-west without having to get on Catawba Ave.

—By approving Town budgets that fund road and intersection projects. This includes budgeting for debt service payments of our road bonds.

Public Safety – I know that Police & Fire are just as important as transportation to our citizens, and this Town Board has a record of supporting these critical services, as well. Meeting our community’s needs are a priority for this Town Board. Many things allow the Town to fund Public Safety, including a balanced growth approach and approving prudent budgets. In order to keep a well-trained and qualified Police staff, their compensation must be kept competitive, and operational & capital investments are needed in Police and Fire to keep service levels acceptable. This Town Board has approved budgets that allow for our Police Officers’ compensation to be competitive with the market, brought on board full-time Firefighters to increase the number of personnel available to fight fires, funded capital investments, and purchased new Fire trucks to replace aging trucks.

Former Commissioner Dave Gilroy – I do feel the need to address comments that have been made by former Commissioner Gilroy, who is also running for election. In Dave’s 14 years as a Commissioner, he voted in favor of residential projects over 75% of the time (supporting 13 of 17 residential projects), even though he states that residential growth is damaging to the Town. A sample of the residential projects that he voted for since 2006 include Bailey Springs, three separate Bailey’s Forest phases, Washam Potts Reserve, Queen Street, Mulberry Townhomes, Jetton Cove at Charlestown, Beverly, Courtyards at Nantz, and Courtyards at Cornelius.

Additionally, Dave’s voting record supporting Public Safety and Transportation says it all. In the time that Dave was a Commissioner, he voted against 9 of 14 Town budgets.

Some of the budgets he voted against included funds for: 1. Market-rate staff salaries, including paying our Police Officers a competitive wage 2. Fire Department funds for operations, personnel, equipment purchases and vehicles 3. Road and intersection projects.

Also, in 2019 Dave voted against raising our Police Officers’ salaries to be competitive with other law enforcement agencies at a time when many of our experienced officers were leaving for other agencies that paid more. In 2016, he voted against a budget that specifically would allocate 100% of funds from a tax increase toward a transportation fund dedicated to pay for much needed future road projects. Fortunately and thankfully for our Town, these budgets and efforts passed without Dave’s support.

I ask that you carefully consider your vote in the upcoming election. The future of our Town depends on it.

—Mayor Woody Washam