Town Council passes controversial rezoning by narrow margin
Maria Houghton receives recognition plaque from Troutman Mayor Teross Young during Thursday's meeting.
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Neighbors packed Thursday's Troutman Town Council meeting to speak out against a Highway Business rezoning request for a recently annexed 11 acre parcel at 111 Westmoreland Road.
Since the public hearing was closed at the February meeting, concerned residents spoke during the public comment period, protesting traffic concerns, possible illegal activity, neighborhood character disruption, and light pollution from the proposed mini-storage planned for the property.
After the first comment on the matter, Town Attorney Gary Thomas cautioned council members that speakers on the rezoning should not influence their votes on the matter since the public hearing was previously closed.
Neighbor Sarah Nessler asked council members to consider the residential nature of the surrounding area, saying this change would benefit a few but be a detriment to many. “We are still looking to you to be good stewards on our behalf," she said.
“We support the businesses in Troutman,” added Nessler. “We enjoy the amenities that Troutman has to offer, which are reasons why we opted to buy homes away from the hustle. Please allow us to maintain our neighborhood feel and deny this request.”
Another resident, Lawrence Gowens, asked council members if they would vote for this rezoning if it was at their neighborhood’s entrance. Gowens entreated the council members to vote their consciences.
If they did pass the measure, Gowens also requested that the council approve a resolution to request that N.C. Department of Transportaion to lower the speed limit to 45 mph on Highway 21 in the rezoned area.
Troutman resident Jim McNiff spoke in support of the measure, citing the need to expand business and commercial development to add to the town’s tax base and keep the tax burden down for town residents.
McNiff welcomed reasoned growth because “the harsh reality is that small towns must grow or die. Maintaining the status quo is a myth.” He also said that citizens must not look at business development as an inhibitor but as fiscal partner ship to maintain the town’s health.
Council member Sally Williams made the motion to rezone the property, explaining that council members depend on the Planning and Zoning Board for recommendations and that the board had voted to rezone the property to HB.
After Paul Henkel seconded the motion, the council voted 3-2 to rezone the property, with Judy Jablonski and Jim Troutman dissenting. Disgruntled neighbors then left the meeting, complaining loudly about the outcome.
Williams, Henkel, and council member Paul Bryant explained their “yes” votes afterward, saying that they did put themselves in the residents’ places and would be fine with the mini-storage near their neighborhoods. Bryant noted that there is a similar facility a quarter-mile from his home and has never considered it a problem.
Maria Houghton of Lake Norman Humane Society was honored by the council for her work and investment in making the Troutman ECS Park dog park a reality.
“This is a great opportunity for someone like me, who grew up in Troutman, to be able to give back to the community, me and American Stainless Tubing, and to do it for my love of animals and to create a better place for human and pet bonding,” said Houghton.
“Lake Norman Humane is a merger of the Friends of the Animals and the Humane Society of Iredell. Last year we adopted out 872 cats and dogs, and we are getting ready to build a pet education and adoption center on Templeton Road between Exit 31 and 33,” added Houghton.
“I’m proud I was able to give back to my community in this way,” concluded Houghton.
During Thursday's meeting, the council also:
• Approved liquor sales and road closures for Front Porch Fest on May 13.
• Approved Karen Van Vliet, alternate planning and zoning member, to complete resigning member McNiff’s term.
• Approved new TYAA President Michael Barker to complete the remainder of Jeremy Hapes Parks' Recreation Committee term.
• Approved the preliminary plat for the Sanders Ridge subdivision.
• Approved the naming of the ESC dog park as the “Lake Norman Humane Dog Park.”
• Announced a special meeting on Monday, March 13, at 4 p.m. to discuss several planning and rezoning items, including a special-use amendment on Autumn Leaf Road and a rezoning request for a proposed apartment complex at Eastway Drive and Winecoff Street.