Community members showed up at Monday night’s Morganton City Council meeting to voice their opposition on rezoning a 3-acre plot of land on Lyman Court.
The rezoning request was filed by property owner William Andrews, who said he found a new way to develop the property that would not be permitted by the conditional use permit that the land was zoned for in 2005. He requested the land be rezoned from residential low and conditional use to a medium intensity district.
Many residents from the neighborhood attended the meeting to urge the council to deny the rezoning request. Led by Leanne Brittain, the main concern of opposition seemed to be the potential of the rezoning allowing for a commercial entity to move into the neighborhood.
“Changing the zoning to MID is really opening a can of worms,” Brittain said. “There is nothing to protect those parcels if [Andrews] does not build on them now, and it’s not a leap that he’s not going to build on them. He’s had 14 years to start building and he hasn’t.”
Brittain said that while the plans Andrews has proposed for the land are nice, the only thing on the agenda was the rezoning of the lots.
Stan Hendrix, who originally sold Andrews two of the lots, told the council that he didn’t want any businesses moving to the neighborhood, but he was ready for the street to see some changes.
“I do appreciate my neighbors’ concerns, but it’s time to develop that area,” Hendrix said. “I’ve known Mr. Andrews since the beginning. He’s kept me very informed … No, I have no guarantees that something commercial can’t be built here if we rezone it, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Councilwoman Wendy Cato made a motion to approve the rezoning efforts, but with no support from her fellow council members, the motion failed. Cato explained that she felt the risk of commercial development on Lyman Court was low enough to disregard.
“From the beginning, I was very concerned about this,” Cato said. “I’ve spent many hours with Phillip [Lookadoo] in his office and I appreciate all of my constituents that have called and talked to me about this. I also serve on the housing board and I know the great need for housing in this community. I feel that with the expense of somebody coming in and using the back lots as a commercial use, there is a risk factor and that risk factor was much lower than I first anticipated and that’s why I voted the way I did.”
A motion to deny the rezoning request was approved by a council vote of 4-1, with Cato opposing the motion.
While Andrews ’ rezoning request was denied, the council gave the green light to Burke Development Inc. to convey a lot on its industrial park off Kathy Road to a developer for a speculative building.
The council’s decision was unanimous and fell in line with the county, which approved the building at its November meeting.
Council members approved agreements with three engineering firms for on-call engineering work.
The agreements come after city officials said that workload for the city’s engineering division can sometimes be more than it can handle on its own.
The city approved master services agreements with West Consultants, AECOM and Gannett Fleming with hourly rates ranging from $88 to $116 per hour, with a multiplier to accommodate overhead costs.
After a public hearing on closing the alley that extends north from Concord Street between South Sterling and South Green streets, the council decided to close the alley.
Mike Fishchesser spoke against closing the alley, saying that American Adventure Service Core, a youth group he works with, has used the alley to get access to a building that stored some of their materials there for the past 22 years.
Fishchesser said that accessing the alley allows them to get their larger materials, but the council went forward with closing the alley as City Attorney Louis Vinay reminded the room that the alley was still accessible from the other side.
A sidewalk encroachment also was approved for the sidewalk in front of the Stoney Kistler building. Keith Whitaker is developing the building at 301 N. Sterling St. for a commercial space on the first floor, which has already been leased, and two new apartments on the second floor.
The city also approved the following items:
» Minutes for the regular meeting on Nov. 6
» Tax releases in the amount of $2,563.75
» A budget amendment that appropriated the receipt of a grant and corresponding expenditures for CoMMA’s Billy Goats Gruff show and Burke Honors Chorus
» An amendment to the audit contract for Morganton ABC to bring it into compliance with the Local Government Commission
» The reappointment of Councilman Chris Hawkins to the BDI board of directors for a term to expire in December 2021
» Reappointing Wanda Burnette, Marchelle Speas, Phil Scarboro, Kay Dignan, Ron George and Colleen Bennett to the community building board of control for terms that will expire on Dec. 31, 2020. The mayor appointed Duabhav Lee to the human relations commission.
Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828-432-8941.