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Cornelius News

Special land planner retained for Smithville community

Cornelius will retain a seasoned planner to help with land use planning in the Smithville neighborhood on either side of Catawba Avenue just west of I-77. The Town Board unanimously retained Bill Duston for a fee not to exceed $5,000.

The historically black community was once an outpost of Cornelius back when the town limits—and water service—stopped short of the neighborhood. Annexations over the years grew Cornelius from a small village and later a mill town to a sprawling suburb on both sides of I-77.

“The Smithville neighborhood is likely to change in character over the next few years as community-wide development pressures start to make their way into the neighborhood,” said Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant.

The town wants the property owners and residents to have an opportunity to provide their opinions and feedback on the future of their neighborhood.


Grant posed these questions: “Do the property owners and residents prefer that the neighborhood remains single-family or is there any interest in townhomes? Also, do the property owners and residents want to retain their homes & properties or are they interested in selling? These and many other questions are what Mr. Duston will be speaking to the neighborhood about.”

​Duston has over 30 years of planning experience in the Carolinas including work on land use planning, zoning, economic development, and community development.

​Commissioner Thurman Ross, who lives in Smithville, emphasized the need for receiving input from residents. “The main thing is communicating with the residents and property owners,” he said.

Duston is expected to conduct a series of public meetings with property owners and tenants starting in late May, to obtain the necessary feedback.

The first meeting will probably take the form of a charette, a type of participatory planning process where planners meet with citizens, transportation and park officials, and other stakeholders to establish the parameters of the process.

​”I think this type of approach makes sense,” said Mayor Woody Washam “and we’re fortunate to have a good reputable individual ready to go.”