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Cornelius News

Planning chair dives into connectivity debate


 Aug. 10. By Dave Vieser. The Lake Norman YMCA has filed new plans with the town seeking permission to expand their parking facilities from 252 to 317 spaces. The proposal was approved 6-1 by the Planning Board in July and is tentatively scheduled for consideration at the Town Board’s Aug. 17 meeting in Town Hall. Neighbors around Church Street are happy with the Y’s scaled-down plans, but not with the one member of the Planning Board who brought up a subject they thought was dead and buried.

“I opposed this plan at the Planning Board level because it does not connect the YMCA to Church Street,” the lone dissenter—Brian Simmons, the chairman of the Planning Board—said on Facebook. It is an unusual place for a public official to make comments, given the sensitivity of the subject as well as the quasi-judicial nature of the Aug. 17 meeting where the Town Board will make the ultimate decision.

The subject at hand pits connectivity and traffic flow against neighborhood preservation and quality of life in a part of old Cornelius known as North of Catawba or Catawba North. The Y has about 7,900 members; roughly 30 percent live in Cornelius.

“I understand the opposition from the neighbors of Catawba North not wanting to make this connection and this has been a hot-button topic for many years here in town every time it comes up. But it was my opinion that it is the right thing to do for the approximately 2,300 residents of Cornelius who are members of the YMCA,” Simmons said on Facebook.

North of Catawba residents think Simmons is all wet.

The YMCA’s new plan for 317 spaces supersedes a more aggressive expansion plan which the Y recalled earlier this year. That plan also contained no provisions for access to Church Street which dead-ends at the YMCA parking lot.

Catawba North residents will meet at 7 tonight at Cornelius Presbyterian Church—it’s the church on Church Street—and plan to attend the Town Board meeting in force on Aug. 17.

Of course, connecting Church Street to the Y parking lot would make it easier to access the YMCA, as well as eliminate the left-hand turn wait that occurs northbound on Main Street.

Is it appropriate to make life easier for 2,300 residents who are members of a non-profit fitness center? Or is it best to protect a quiet neighborhood where homeowners did not bargain for through traffic? Elected officials can’t discuss the matter now, based on the quasi-judical nature of the Aug. 17 hearing.

Planning Department staff has met with residents five or six times on the subject. There are no plans to attend tonight’s meeting.

Senior Town Planner Jason T. Pauling said there are “no intentions in this plan to pursue connectivity through Church Street, Cornelius Street or Cornelius Court.”

This expansion is primarily geared to an “existing parking and circulation issue and not because of a building expansion or growth in attendance,” he said.

The YMCA currently has a conditional use permit in order to operate, and their request is considered a major amendment.

In addition to the new driveway entrance on Davidson Street, the YMCA proposal will add 36 parallel parking spaces along Davidson Street, and 24 additional parking spaces to replace the existing gravel area near the beach. According to the Y’s plan, the area will also be used as the primary pick up and drop off area for children in after school programs and summer camps. The existing tennis courts will be utilized as temporary parking during construction of the main parking lot, and will then be converted to a play field once the rest of the parking lot is finished.

For those that are interested in / go to the YMCA. There is a plan that has been submitted and will be considered at the Cornelius Town Board meeting on August 17th to reconfigure and increase their parking at the Y. I opposed this plan at the Planning Board level because it does not connect the YMCA to Church Street (an existing public street). What was included was preparation for a 2nd connection into Davidson when the adjoining property is developed. However, the timeline for development of that property is unknown. I understand the opposition from the neighbors of Catawba North not wanting to make this connection and this has been a hot-button topic for many years here in town every time it comes up. But it was my opinion that it is the right thing to do for the approximately 2,300 residents of Cornelius that are members of the YMCA. The Catawba North Neighborhood is not pleased at all with my actions and sent me an email this morning asking me to state my position on the matter. I will post my reply to Mr. Archer of the neighborhood in a reply below for all to see. Posting this so that everyone is informed about this issue and the project that is being presented by the YMCA for consideration.


Brian Simmons Mr. Archer,

Thank you for your email. As the Chairman of the Planning Board, I did not support the plan that was presented by the YMCA due to the lack of a connection to Church Street. I put forth a motion to require their plan to connect to Church 
Street. That did not pass as the vote was 3-4. There was a 2nd motion that was less strict in its wording regarding the connection that did pass 6-1 (I was the opposing vote).

I understand that this is an unpopular position for you and your neighbors in the Catawba North Neighborhood that I have taken on this matter. However, the code in Cornelius requires connectivity. We have required connectivity of every development and project since I have been a member of the planning board (since 2009). I firmly believe that if we are requiring connectivity in ever other portion of the town that this area should not be an exception.

Given that the YMCA is located on one of the northern most roads in Cornelius and access is limited by way of using one of the busiest north-south corridors in our town (Hwy. 115) — the connection would be a positive step for all residents of Cornelius.

We have approximately 2,300 members of the YMCA that reside in Cornelius that utilize the facility. I have to support, in my opinion, a decision that is best for the majority of the residents in Cornelius. Having one ingress/egress point for a major facility in Cornelius is not good business or our residents. The YMCA is a fantastic asset to our town and region and it is my personal belief that a second connection with Church Street would improve the user experience for all Cornelius residents. 

Given that we already have a red light in place at Church Street and Catawba Avenue further makes this a viable option for traffic flow in the area and alleviates some pressure from 115.

Again, I understand that this is not popular, but hope that you respect the principles that I am basing my opinion off of. I feel it is the right decision for all residents of Cornelius to make a connection with the YMCA and Church Street. 

This matter is quasi-judicial at the town board level. Unfortunately due to that fact, none of us can speak with Commissioners about this matter and only testimony during the hearing can be considered by the Board. As long as my work schedule allows, I do plan to be present for this hearing to present my opinion to the Board during their deliberations of this matter. 

Best Regards,

Brian Simmons


Jodi Archer With all due respect Mr. Simmons…. To be clear, I am NOT Related to Mr. Archer, however I would agree with Mr. Archer. Looking at alternatives to chopping into a quiet established neighborhood isn’t an option if the residents there oppose it.


Michelle Ferlauto What about a turn signal to support the traffic? It is so aggravating waiting for 15 minutes for someone who insists on a making a left in rush hour traffic out of there. Plus – it’s really dangerous for them as well.


Brian Simmons Any changes to the intersection of Davidson St. & 115 would have to be done/approved by NCDOT since 115 is a State Road and not under the control of the Town of Cornelius. Thus another reason why I was looking at options for the town that did not involve NCDOT.



Jodi Archer Agree Michelle …. Totally. It is a big problem. Let ENGINEERING FIRMS ( independent of NCDOT) look at the problem, advise and propose solutions, with all factors considered.


Jodi Archer That is why Town of Cornelius took over the issue of Jetton road resurfacing. Cut a deal with NCDOT amazingly quickly… Work was finished amazingly quickly as well with much done during off peak hours. And now takes control of the road this eliminating NCDOT involvement in future endeavors. Hmmmm ….. Perhaps Commissioners can find a way to do the same in a portion of town where the majority of the Board does not live. Just sayin…. Fix it


Brian Simmons Jetton Road is fully contained within the jurisdiction of the Town of Cornelius making that possible. 115 is continuous through other towns such as Huntersville, Davidson, Mooresville, etc… I highly doubt NCDOT would even entertain such proposal because of that issue.


Brian Simmons I will follow that up with this — I also don’t understand why Catawba Ave has to remain under the control of NCDOT because it is fully contained within Cornelius. I would support Cornelius assuming control of Catawba Avenue. My only opinion there is that they (NCDOT) want control of it…..


Jim Robinette The 2300 member of the Y that reside in Cornelius CHOOSE to pay the membership fees and CHOSE to become a member there all while knowing that there is one way in and one way out. If they do not like their CHOICE now because it is inconvenient to enter and exit onto 115 then they can CHOOSE to become a member at one of the many other gyms in the Cornelius area. I grew up on Cornelius st and my parents still live there, dont ruin a great Old Cornelius neighborhood just for 2300 members of the Y who are citizens of Cornelius. Last I checked the pop. of town was a little under 27,000, i dont think ruining a quiet neighborhood for a mere 8% of the population. Don’t ruin Church, Washam, Beard, and a lot of other streets that lead back to Catawba ave just to make it easier for 2300 members to get in and out of the Y.


Brian Simmons Mr Robinette I do respect your view and don’t take this issue lightly. But please also remember that the YMCA is more than a gym and provides a much broader product offering and services than the other gyms in the area such and for some it is the only available option for participation in those programs.


Jodi Archer True Brian Simmons. Yet, the principal remains. I thought the purpose of your proposal to fix the problem (which I am all for !) was to look at options AWAY from 115 ? If I’m wrong, correct me please. For Town of Cornelius, this means, if you can cut a deal with NCDOT in one section of town, why not…. rather, it should be considered in another part of town, which serviously needs relief from traffic congestion. This would not be a cosmetic fix of pot holes or deterioration. I’d like to find a solution that uses the same bargaining formula to get away from NCDOT having a part to play in ALL the Town of Cornelius arenas that so badly need addressing.


Jodi Archer Let me be clear. I am OPPOSED to chopping into established neighborhoods. Having said that, there is a very good possibility there is a win-win solution here for both YMCA member who choose the services offered….. and for the citizens who DO NOT WANT their quiet neighborhood destroyed. Dave Gilroy addressed this way back when Parsons Brinkerhoff gave presentation at Town Council meeting.


Brian Simmons My only concern about Cornelius taking control of too many roads (now maintained by the state) is that our taxes due to the State as individuals will not go down because of this. But our liabilities as a town go up as we assume control of more roadways. Over time maintenance will be required and be the responsibility of Cornelius and we have to fund that. Those funds come from all of us (Cornelius residents) by way of taxes…. I’m not sure there is a win in any of these situations for us as residents.


Jim Robinette Yes I understand that aspect of the Y, growing up just up the street I took part in many of them. I still say they chose to become members there with the way Davidson st and 115 were and are now. I’m just against opening Church st just for the members of the Y to benifit from and the people in these neighborhoods suffer. You have to realize and I’m sure you do, that none of the roads including Church st are built for that kind of traffic load, neither are any or the intersections that connect these roads to 115 and Catawba.


Brian Simmons Overall this is just proof that the State has no plan to address our traffic needs or is incapable. What we have today is inadequate for most places and certainly doesn’t work for tomorrow. We see it here from something as small as the YMCA to our issues with I-77 and the toll lanes. It’s time to expect more from our elected officials in Raleigh to come up with a plan to address our interstates, state highways/roads and work with our cities — in all parts of the state. And deliver a plan that DOES NOT involve managed toll lanes!


Jodi Archer Brian Simmons. I was CONCERNED (Andrew Grant will confirm this) about the Town taking over Jetton Road, without doing any “comparative studies” of other feeder roads (Example: Nance Road, Bethel Church, Torrance Chapel, etc. etc.) because I did not (STILL DO NOT) understand HOW Jetton Road was somehow randomly picked to be able to divorce the NCDOT. My question was… How is this good for ALL THE RESIDENTS OF CORNELIUS to be saddled with the debt (future maintainence, improvements etc.) ? My question was kicked up the road to Jeff Tarte. An Email from Mr. Tarte assures me they are planning to do the same with “the other feeder roads”. Why they started at Jetton…. still a mystery to me. Still waiting for that to happen and to see if it will be handled with comparative analysis to see appropriate order (who needs it most). Many progressive towns in other states, handle needed improvements by taking out bonds and creatively finding a way for those bonds to pay themselves back. City Managers know this. In this way, it does not become DEBT (which I am NOT for long term).


Jodi Archer I am not talking about State regulated BONDS. Im talking about funds our Town and Citizens can be in control of. This also means having Town Board members who do not use those funds as slush funds for their own purposes.


Kelly Hart-Osborne Is the YMCA a tax exempt organization? Do they pay any money to our roads? I think tax payers whom live in the affected area should have a large part in deciding this issue


Jodi Archer We have bond money avaiable to our Town right now. Can new park restrooms wait? I think so but that’s just my 2 cents. We need traffic relief. Yes Kelly … I agree.


Brian Simmons Right now we could require the YMCA to fund the connection to Church Street as a requirement of the approval of this plan. If not and this passes then if down the road it is decided this connection needs to be made, then it will be funded by the taxpayers of Cornelius.


Jodi Archer YMCA has valuable services. As a taxpayer I do not like paying for policies that only address issues ( maintaining etc ONE road (Jetton) because policies should be equal to all areas of town. In short, Jetton Road IS divorced from NCDOT and all Cornelius taxpayers will be paying for the future costs. Therefore, all Cornelius taxpayers should have the same “deal” to solve issues in their neighborhoods. WITH the neighborhood deciding Not the NCDOT and NOT Commissioners who do not represent the voice of affected citizens.


Sarah Umberger Everhart I drive home down 115 daily. I would gladly welcome some relief from the backups caused by those exiting the ymca at 5-6 pm. Makes an already stressful traffic situation worse. Every day there’s a police officer there to direct traffic!


Kari Perkins Zent We totally need traffic lights at that intersection….I agree with Michelle Ferlauto but wouldn’t that now be considered improvements to surrounding roads and against the current contract with the Toll Roads? Just curious..


Jodi Archer Good point Kari ! Wouldn’t that be awful to not be able to do anything at all on 115 ?! Even if an Expert Traffic Engineer would recommend… Hands tied


Jodi Archer Ps … I saw your jeep ! Cute 


Angelo A Lorusso Jr Brian Simmons, our regional traffic woes are clearly tied to the incompetence of NCDOT and the various town planners. Authority over roads in our community should have been wrestled away from state control decades ago. Now because of a lack of vision by our leaders, we are trapped in our own negiborhoods.


Jodi Zanolini So true Angelo A Lorusso Jr – I hate leaving the neighborhood as I know it’s going to be a pain getting anywhere easily. I do know, for what its worth, every day coming home from work driving on 115 when you get to theYMCA there is always a traffic jam and usually one or two cop cars stopping traffic so people can get out from the Y and onto the road, i believe there are many children who go to day care or camp there. It reminds of Sunday traffic when people are leaving church, that is just how busy it gets.


Guerry Barbee Every time I hear that someone wants to connect Church St to the YMCA it makes me cringe. That neighborhood is one of Cornelius’s oldest neighborhoods with long standing established residents. The fact that people think it’s okay to ruin this neighborhSee More


Jeff Tarte For the record I oppose the connection. Guerry is generally spot on. The neighbor cannot withstand that kind of traffic volume.


Brian Simmons If my idea is not the solution, then I ask what is? Doing nothing is not an option. It’s a problem that needs addressed that hasn’t been for too long. Will NCDOT put a red light at Davidson St and 115 to help alleviate the problem and make this a safer intersection for the YMCA users? Or should we look at assisting the YMCA and relocate it into a more central location in town with better access roads that would also all them to build a new and modern facility?


Jim Robinette Doing nothing is an option. Its always an option. Just because you do not think its an option does not mean it isn’t. Leave well enough alone” is what my Mawmaw use to say and even tho some today do not believe in that, it can still holds true. Like I said before, part of CHOOSING to be a member of the YMCA is knowing that there is one way in and out and you will have to wait a few precious moments to get back home.


Guerry Barbee Brian – I think the NCDOT superstreet idea is ridiculous – however I think you can apply those principles here and make it a safer/more efficient intersection. Make Davidson St a right turn out only intersection and a right turn in only. Put a median in the middle of North Main that will not allow any crossover traffic. The Mayes Rd/Hwy 73 intersection is a prime example. If there are plans for a Potts St connector then make it happen for anyone wishing to travel North. There should be no public money used to help the Y relocate…. They’ve got plenty – have you seen their rates?


Jeff Tarte Options for 115 at Davidson St have been explored in the past. Traffic light or a roundabout are options, but not good ones as to cost and limited space. There is limited room for a lane to stack coming out of the Y. Roundabout has issues as we would need to acquire land for the room necessary to construct. Light is expensive and circle is really expensive. Super street is an idea. Not a fan. All a big expense.

This is also difficult as the only ones to benefit are members of the Y. Which begs the question should they pay for any improvement? My general position is yes. Open to arguments to the counter position. 

Implementation of either of these solutions may still be cost prohibitive for the Y. Personally I do not feel this is a road improvement or cost all Cornelius or Lake Norman area residents should be expected to cover.

Opening the stub on Church Street to access the parking lot at the Y does potentially irreparable harm to the entire neighborhood. The other consideration is to make it a benefit to all citizens by connecting Church St to Catawba Ave/Potts St thus making a through street to access into Davidson, but that puts a road through the middle of the Y parking lot and the Y does not get very excited by that prospect.

At least two town boards and NCDOT have vetted and voted on this issue in great detail multiple times over the past decade and a half. Politely as the board changes composition each election the Y desires to try to take another bite at the apple. Unless significant facts have changed, I am not sure why anyone would think the decision on Church Street should change?

PS I am not trying to have 3,000 Y members mad at me. Responding as former mayor who has heard the same issue and ideas presented in the past. Would love to see if we can find a solution that a majority of the community would support.


Angelo A Lorusso Jr IMHO traffic light is the lesser of all evils. No need to reinvent the wheel here. Just fix it, 20 years of sweeping traffic issues under the rug, is way too long.


Angelo A Lorusso Jr Brian Simmons, relocation is a great suggestion. Antiquity is the perfect location. Finally someone with a vision for the future, I love it.


Brian Simmons I respect the various opinions and posted here as an FYI. But given what I’ve read here it seems that the town needs to revisit our dedication to connectivity and the requirement that is currently in the code. If we aren’t going to enforce it uniformly, then why have it at all? However we have connected many neighborhoods across the town to apartment complexes, other neighborhoods, etc. That issue itself is most concerning to me.


Angelo A Lorusso Jr We should not be disrupting the lives and homes of residents in “old Cornelius” regardless of the code.


Jeff Tarte Connectivity is an infrastructure epidemic for our region. 

Brian I appreciate you engaging and looking for thoughtful solutions. You have been and are a tremendous asset to our community through your service and volunteering on various local boards.


Guerry Barbee Brian I agree with you on connectivity in our town – however new codes shouldn’t be applied to old neighborhoods. That would be where you and I disagree. The connectivity in new development on Bailey Rd around Hough, Antiquity to South St, Robbins Park etc have all been excellent however I think we have missed some other major opportunities to alleviate congestion on some of our major thoroughfares. The I77 service Rd should go from catawba to Westmoreland and from Westmoreland to Sam Furr easing traffic on W Catawba, Statesville and Sam Furr Roads. However we missed those opportunities with Alexander Chase, Westmoreland Lake and Legacy Park. 

If our transportation woes aren’t running citizens out of town yet then we should consider ourselves lucky. I love our town but if some major improvements don’t take place soon we are going to choke ourselves to death.


Jim Robinette Couldn’t have said it better Guerry. The requirement for connectivity is not new but is no where as old as some of the neighborhoods and yes a lot of the new neighborhoods have been held to that code which they should be since they are being built with the code in place. But why start sticking to the code and connecting a road like Church st that will only benefit 2300 people? That this will only benefit members of the Y is the second biggest reason to not do this. The first being loosing a great old neighborhood of Cornelius.


Jim Barbee Here’s an option… Have NCDOT contract with Cintra to put in managed toll lanes to access Davidson St/YMCA. The cost will be 7-9 times more expensive that any other option and only effect those using the Y. Then we can see how well I-77 is going to work.


Jodi Archer Connectivity. There are options unknown. Where there is a problem .. Often there is a pretty good chance of a solution. And as was mentioned … It might be a small fix. Or not ? Traffic Engineer … A good start. Not one connected to NCDOT. Our Town Board should address the funding. And yes… That means citizens get a bite of “the apple”, meaning Bond Improvement $$ money. If this gets Politicalized… You can be certain it will get more complicated than it needs to be.


Angelo A Lorusso Jr Move the Y to Antiquity, problem solved. Antiquity has several ways in and out. End of problem.


Jodi Archer In no way should old town Cornelius be cut up or maimed for this problem. It needs a fix not a bandaid. Which of course means money. As for not a fan of expense? Please…. It’s a need not a Christmas list



Jodi Archer Jeff Tarte… Respectfully, why is your general position involved? I’m just saying… I think this falls to our town citizens and our CURRENT Town Board,



Jodi Archer Hmmmmmmm …..




Angelo A Lorusso Jr Hope you had a great day Jodi Archer


Dave Mancuso Here’s where some connectivity would be great. Connect Knox to Bethel Church Rd. That way you don’t have to go out to Catawba to get to any of the shops on that side of the street.

Dave Mancuso's photo.


Angelo A Lorusso Jr That one may be in the Cornelius master plan Dave Mancuso


Joy McCall Dean Leave Church St alone! This is a historic area of Cornelius with many walkers and bikers using the streets in the neighborhood. The streets are narrow and cannot hold such an increase in traffic. Church street is already connected to the YMCA with a pedestrian/bike path.


Jodi Archer Jeff Tarte above mentioned being “open to arguments on counter position”. I am countering with a different viewpoint… not an argument per say.


Jodi Archer Personally, I feel this IS a road improvement which benefits far more persons than the approximately 3,000 member of the YMCA. Why? Because Highway 115 congestion is a BEAST long overdue, neglected by NCDOT in need of a plan that helps traffic flow in both directions. It affects businesses along the corridor in both directions. I STRONGLY DISAGREE with your position that this should be a cost to be put upon the YMCA. BECAUSE…. I asked you that same question regarding Jetton Road. How does the “agreement” brokered with NCDOT to fix, resurface the road, and then turn it’s future costs over to the town… benefit ALL the citizens of Cornelius ? Quite frankly….. until the agreement to fix, resurface all other feeder roads as you committed to in your


Jodi Archer reply to me. I still ask that same question. It is a residential community. It’s beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. We all have pride in our LKN community which is a very good thing. What I believe in, again, STRONGLY, is an equal opportunity for ALL the roads to reflect this pride. Same rules and benefits for ALL.


Jim Robinette Its not a road improvement. You can already turn down Cornelius st and cut through to Catawba. Opening Church to the Y will not fix congestion on 115 except for about 2 hours every afternoon and no other time.


Jodi Archer Jim…. No. I am TOTALLY against ANY cut through or chopping into the quaint, established neighborhood , no to changing Church Street. My point is …. that paying for the “fix” should not be an issue that stops any solution from happening.


Jodi Archer What I would like to see is a “change” in the form of having a practical solution that does NOT change the original character in that neighborhood. I’m not an Engineer.


Jim Barbee The “fix” for 115 is not thru Church St. I proposed the following several years ago and it made the long range transportation plan, not sure if it’s still there or not. 
Add 2 lanes east of and parallel to the railroad running from Twin Oaks Rd in Davi
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Jim Barbee Of course such a plan will never become a reality because all 3 towns would have to agree and work together. They proved several years ago that they can’t do that when asked to build a joint animal shelter.


Angelo A Lorusso Jr Jim Barbee, if we could replace all sitting board members with people of vision, it could be done. Sad part is no one in Cornelius of Davidson, care enough to run.


Joy McCall Dean Brian Simmons, so what you really want is a cut through on Church St to save you several minutes on your drive to the YMCA. Connectivity involves bikers and walkers as well as cars and our neighborhood already provides access and connectivity in this manner.
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Joy McCall Dean Brian Simmons, you want to bring traffic through our historic neighborhood with homes built in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. These homes were built long before the YMCA and you arrived in this area. Study your Cornelius history!
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Jodi Archer I took a very long route to say just what I should have said briefly. It can be fixed. Fund it.. Forbid any disruption to charming old town Cornelius… Fix it. Vision and planning.
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Jodi Archer I agree Angelo. We need to have some brave souls step up for new leadership
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Angelo A Lorusso Jr Vision and planning is the only way. It’s too late this year to get rid of the dead wood. Next year’s elections we need to look at the career representatives who have approved development with no infrastructure. Get rid of them.
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Jodi Archer Agree Angelo … Well said.