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Board discusses next steps toward vision plan

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

SHALLOTTE—The board of aldermen talked about the next steps toward achieving the goals of the town’s vision plan during its pre-agenda meeting Tuesday night.

Town planner Chris Rogers informed the town board the planning board has recommended extending the plan’s boundaries to include Mulberry Creek and adding the area to the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) land use plan.

He also suggested the town seek state CAMA grants for waterway access and adopt an overlay zone so the town can have greater control over the kinds of development in what the town hopes will be an urban waterfront zone as defined by the state.

To develop riverfront areas, as suggested in the vision plan, the town would have to establish urban waterfront districts, which would require a number of permits from the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.

Having an urban waterfront district would allow developers to build docks and walkways near the water’s edge.

“Right now, anyone can come in under the UDO (unified development ordinance) and have their project approved as long as they meet CAMA requirement,” Rogers said. “They can build anything. By creating an overlay, we can say, ‘This is what we want.’”

Alderman John Kinlaw expressed concern over adding Mulberry Creek, saying it might dilute the vision plan by taking the focus off Main Street.

Other aldermen said the public hearing and adoption process for any changes to the land use plan and UDO would allow any issues to be worked out.

“We’re trying to empower people to have vision,” said alderman Larry Harrelson. “We need to let people have their say at the public hearing. I think the process will take care of itself.”

Alderman Alan Lewis agreed and added the town should educate property owners in the urban waterfront area about the benefits of the district.

“We may get a lot more support than we think we will,” he said.

According to state law, an urban waterfront area must be in a central business district where there is minimal undeveloped land, mixed land uses and urban-level services such as water, sewer, streets, solid waste management, roads, police and fire protection or an industrial-zoned area next to a central business district.

An urban waterfront must also be recognized as having cultural, historical and economic significance to the municipality.

To build in the urban waterfront area, a developer would need to obtain permission from both the town and CAMA. The town would have to adopt a new zoning district, a “riverfront mixed use district,” that would dictate all the permitted and conditional uses.

OTHER BUSINESS

The board also heard from Phillip Hedgepeth, program director for the Senior Aides program under the Cape Fear Area United Way. The agency receives $500,000 in federal grants to provide 20-hour-per-week training jobs with nonprofit and government agencies for low-income senior citizens.

Hedgepeth said he was trying better match local retirees with jobs that fit their experience. He asked the town to consider signing on as a host for a senior in need of a job.

Board members were agreeable to the idea.

“More than most areas, we have people with a lot of experience in any field you can think of,” said Mayor Gerald Long. “I understand how difficult it is for you to find jobs to meet that experience. I think we’re definitely interested.”

The aldermen unanimously approved signing on with the program.

Also on Tuesday, aldermen agreed not to deviate from the town policy requiring residents in the town limits to hook on to the water and sewer systems, after a resident of Wildwood Village approached town staff about only paying for water since his septic tank was still working.

“I thought when you came into town, you signed up for both,” Long said.

Town finance officer Mimi Gaither explained the town gave the customer six billing cycles to hook onto the sewer before charging for it.

“We put an asset in the ground at [the neighborhood residents’] request at the expense of the taxpayers,” Gaither said, recommending the town not deviate from its policy.

Board members agreed.

“When we start deviating from policy and being inconsistent, that’s when we get in trouble,” Lewis said.

In other business, the board:

•Approved new stormwater permit review fees.

•Approved a new personnel policy to meet Fair Labor Standard Act overtime requirements.

•Approved sidewalk improvements for N.C. 179 from the Shell station to Copas Road.

•Approved an identity theft policy for the town utility department as suggested by the N.C. League of Municipalities.

sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or swilson@brunswickbeacon.com.