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Cornelius News

There are many factors to weigh at budget time


By Dave Yochum. Economic development—a good thing for anyone who pays property taxes—is a serious business now, infinitely more so than when Cornelius was a farm-community-turned-mill town and labor was cheap.

The Lake Norman Economic Development Corp. is the key agency responsible for economic development, which helps recruit and retain business for Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville.

Recruiting new businesses creates more local jobs, more options for people who commute to Charlotte every day. The Town Board might pull the plug on the current Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission, but not Economic Development.

Meanwhile, infrastructure improvements in a growth town are costly.

“With NCDOT committed to spending over $127 million on road projects in Cornelius, the additional cost to replace and construct sidewalks and multi-purpose paths, street lighting, mast arm signals, landscaping, as well as Cornelius’ local match funds for the roadway construction, will approach a dizzying $11 million plus. These necessary improvements must be completed during road construction to keep costs down.  Additionally, they must be paid for in cash when the road work is being done and in some instances before the work commences,” said Commissioner Jim Duke.

Based on the roughly $12 million expense, burying utilities on West Catawba from Jetton to Sam Furr is off the table.

Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy


Nevertheless, it looks like a one- or two-cent increase in the tax rate will be proposed by town staff at the next Board of Commissioners meeting.

A two-cent increase in the tax rate would cost the owner of a $250,000 home $50 a year.

On the other side of the budget coin Cornelius is well-known for keeping a lid on expenses, thanks in no small part to perennial budget hawk Dave Gilroy.

This is part of the reason why commissioners look at a piece of property like the Houser land on West Catawba, and covet—from a tax revenue standpoint—the potential revenue a commercial project might generage, or even a 14-story hotel on a nearby piece of land.



Then, too, factor in the closure of the Curtis Screw plant on Zion avenue and Michael Waltrip Raceworld on Liverpool Parkway.

For the record, both are for sale and both are being actively marketed by Lake Norman Economic Development. The asking price for Curtis Screw is $2.9 million; for Michael Waltrip, $15 million.

Meanwhile, Gilroy says the “mother of all” county revaluations is coming in three years.  The county’s “liberal-minded, big city controlled” commission is  likely to hit us with a rate increase as well, he says.

Cornelius Today checked in with Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam who represents the town as a voting member on the LNEDC board of directors about economic development as it relates to town budgets and taxes

Cornelius Today: We talk about the need to provide a better balance residential and commercial ratables in Cornelius. How are we doing?

Washam: Cornelius is in a really good position right now. The town has 15 active projects, six of which are expansions of current businesses. That is 68 percent of the current LNEDC projects.  LNEDC is working hard on behalf of our town.

Cornelius Today: In the past year, we’ve lost Curtis Screw, MWR, and it looks like the Houser property will go to Classica…in the background is Elevation Church in a commercial project and the Life Fellowship, both tax exempt, on prime commercial land.

Washam: The vote is planned on the Classica Homes project on May 2nd.  Elevation and the Life Fellowship projects were board decisions of times past. They were previous board decisions made in very different economic times. We now have to focus on the future. While it is a town mission to promote local economic development, we are not a developer nor should we compete with development companies.  We are fortunately an attractive town for business and residents. People want to live here and companies want to do business here. That is a good problem to have!

Cornelius Today: What do you think about the town land-banking property around the old Salvation Army? Or will that develop by itself when CATS goes in.

Washam: I fundamentally do not believe in this town land banking select pieces of property.  That can set a precedent that we cannot sustain. Whose land do we buy and whose do we not? The one exception would be for the town to help create a business park.  But, the challenge with that is the fact that we have very little land left which could be used for that purpose.  In addition, the huge homes surrounding our 75 miles of Lake Norman shoreline makes us a little different.  We have homes bigger than many commercial buildings. Again, we are an attractive town that businesses want to be and people want to live. That is the good news.

Cornelius Today: Economic development inquiries and projects handled by the LNEDC is a good way to measure future growth. What has happened during the first quarter of 2016 vs. first quarter 2015.

Washam: Projects year-to-date are running about the same as last year. During the first four months of 2015, the EDC opened 14 new projects, compared to 15 new projects for 2016.

Cornelius Today: The LNEDC covers three towns. Roughly what percentage of projects are in Cornelius?

Washam: Sixty-eight percent of all the projects LNEDC is currently working on, are Cornelius projects.  As the town’s representative on the EDC board, those are some pretty good numbers to take pride in.

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