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Cornelius News

Washam Potts neighbors speak out about in-fill project

Site of townhouse project on Washam Potts

Dec. 18. By Dave Vieser. The newly constituted Cornelius Town Board conducted its first public hearing on December 16, and was greeted by several dozen unhappy residents. The issue at hand was a proposal by Blue Heel Development to build 27 two story townhomes on 6.83 acres of vacant land southeast of Washam Potts Road approximately 1/4 mile east of the Ruffner Drive intersection.

Developer Matt Gallagher requested that the rezoning hearing be continued from November so that the new Town Board could consider the application through the multi-month approval process.  Some very familiar faces were also in attendance, including Attorney Susan Irvin representing the developer and former Commissioner Dave Gilroy.

Planning Director Wayne Herron began by pointing out that North Carolina is a property rights state and owners have the right to develop property as long as its in accordance with local zoning and land use regulations.

He also said that the proposal could not be rejected due to local schools being over capacity.

He said the developer could be required to fund certain transportation improvements such as left-turn lanes on Washam Potts Road.

After the meeting, one town commissioner called the project a “scar” in the middle of a single-family neighborhood.

The towns land use plan limits the development up to four units per acre, but he said that the plan, adopted in 2014, could always be revised. Finally he noted that under state law the town can not approve or reject a proposal based solely on the development of the land with townhomes rather than single family homes. Irvin said that, based on discussions with the neighbors a buffer zone will be built between the townhomes and the adjoining property. She also said that 27 townhomes would actually generate less traffic than 20 private homes.

None of those explanations seemed to mollify the neighbors in attendance.

“We purchased our property on the corner of this land believing it was not to be built upon” said Kevin Hurd. “I would strongly suggest that the town consider a review of its land use plan.” ..a sentiment echoed by most of the 11 speakers.
Paul McDougall, also from the area, raised concerns about the narrow road proposed for the development and whether it would be able to accommodate emergency vehicles.


Commissioner Jim Duke said residents were on point.

“This is a tough one for the Town Board, but I find the concerns of the neighbors to be exceptionally compelling!  We really need to do what is right for all concerned,” Duke said.

Also weighing in was former Town Commissioner Dave Gilroy.

“This is an issue which is near and dear to my heart. When it comes to density, we need to strike a balance and relook at that 2014 land use plan. Plans like that tend to age very quickly.”

Gilroy also said that “just because our land use code says a developer can build up to a certain limit, it doesn’t mean we should approve everything right up to that limit.”


The December 16 hearing was the first on the project by the town board. No decision was made, and the next step will be a hearing before the town planning board, currently scheduled for Monday January 13, 2020. Eventually the proposal will come back to the town board for a second hearing and then a decision. That second hearing is currently scheduled for Feb. 3, but is subject to change.

In other action:

  • Reappointed Dr. Trey Fouche, Andrew Heywood, and David Rusk, to new three year terms on the town PARC Commission to run through January 2023.
  • Approved the 2021 town fiscal year budget calendar, which includes a four hour planning session on February 6 at Jetton Park, and a two day workshop on March 25-26 at Graylyn International Conference Center in Winston-Salem. The budget is expected to be released in early May and per state law must he adopted no later than June 30, 2020.
  • Continued a public hearing to consider approving the landmark designation of the Cornelius Elementary School Ag Building to January 6, 2020.