Troutman Council discusses pet waste ordinance, roads, upcoming events
BY DEBBIE PAGE
During its pre-agenda meeting on Monday, the Troutman Town Council discussed a number of ongoing issues, including a pet waste ordinance, future road connections and procedures for taking over “orphan” roads, and continuation of a discussion over subdivision fire-access codes.
The council also discussed its vision for land use and residential developments in conjunction with the LGI Homes rezoning request at Perry and Hoover Roads, which members will take up Thursday night.
Pet Waste Ordinance
Troutman residents are reporting problems with pet owners failing to clean up dog waste, which can threaten public health and safety.
Troutman does not have any ordinance related to this issue, but many municipalities have instituted these rules, citing public health and water pollution concerns since animal waste can run into storm drains and contaminate local waterways.
Because of Troutman’s proximity to Lake Norman, the council asked staff to investigate other localities’ ordinances and fines. Standard fines were $50, with a warning issued for some first-time offenses.
After reviewing a variety of solutions, the town staff recommended council adopt a pet waste ordinance, which would not apply to disabled individuals with service dogs who may not be able to comply.
Board member Sally Williams questioned how the measure might be enforced and what proof would be required. Town Planner Erika Martin conceded enforcement could be challenging without expensive DNA testing.
Mayor Teross Young noted that he had seen incidents of irresponsible pet owners not attending to dog waste and believed the ordinance would be a deterrent. Councilwoman Judy Jablonski mentioned issues with pet waste in the park as well.
With an ordinance in place, Police Chief Matthew Selves said officers can charge people who do not clean up after their pets. He noted that people can submit videos or photos to use as evidence of pet owners’ infractions.
Council members asked the staff to bring back a proposed ordinance for council consideration that requires immediate removal of pet waste in a closed container and then disposing it in a trash receptacle. Escalating fines would be imposed for failure to comply.
“Stub” Connections and Orphan Streets
Residents of some neighborhoods are asking about the “roads to nowhere” in their communities, so town staff are undertaking efforts to inform the community about the road “stubs” that are connectors to future roads that town officials hope will be built one day, in accordance with the town's future land-use plan.
The Uniform Development Ordinance (UDO) being developed will require signs in new subdivisions to label stubs as future road connections. Staff has considered placing them at existing stubs but cited cost and possible confusion arising.
Instead, it has opted to use the newsletter, website, Facebook, and other methods to inform the public of the stubs’ purpose and to require the signage in new developments once the new UDO is in effect.
Council members also discussed orphan streets, which are private streets, often built by developers, within the town limits that the town does not maintain. Residents who seek to put their street under town control are required to bring the road up to Troutman’s street standards, at their cost, before the town will adopt it.
The Aberdeen HOA has asked the town to take over Aberdeen Drive. The residents want to take up the existing asphalt and put down two inches of new asphalt to qualify. The town engineer believes this would be acceptable, but accepting this offer would set a precedent in accepting future orphan streets.
Jablonski was concerned that the asphalt layer would not fix underlying street issues that could cost the town in the future. She also objected to the town lowering its street standards.
Councilman Paul Bryant also questioned whether this new layer would bring the road up to the required 25-year life expectancy, saying the criteria to admit orphan roads needed to be consistent.
Finance Director Steve Shealy said the underlying street had the 8 inches of stone that the town requires and that the road bed would be tested before the new asphalt was applied. However, the street would be one foot narrower than allowed.
Council member Paul Henkel said the council members had to be fair to all requesters. “We can’t pick and choose or people (will be) crying foul if don’t treat everyone consistently," he said.
Bryant, after noting the large pot holes on Aberdeen Drive, suggested neighbors proceed with repairs and new asphalt to have a nice road, but “we don’t have to take it over if it is still below our UDO standards.”
Martin added that the town now requires a road maintenance bond if the developer abandons the roads in a subdivision.
Attendee Jan Huffman with the Falls Cove HOA said that the town should remember that some subdivisions that the town annexes were built under county rules. She suggested that the town require bonds in those situations too.
Subdivision Fire Access Code
Discussions have continued with county officials and County Fire Marshal David Souther over the Fire Marshal’s interpretation of subdivision fire access rules in Appendix D of the state fire code, which Troutman currently has in its ordinances.
Martin, county officials and Town Attorney Gary Thomas believe there is no approval process that requires the Fire Marshal to sign off on anything that would cause a development not to begin construction. No planning and zoning permits, plats, or building inspection permits require it.
Martin recommended waiting for county approval of the memorandum of understanding with Troutman and then formally removing Appendix D from the town’s ordinances, which would allow the council to continue to approve subdivisions as they have been built previously.
Henkel noted that no one was asking to compromise fire safety but only asking for reasonableness in specific topographical situations that make two entrances unfeasible. He said no one argues that multiple entrances aren’t good a good thing, but the UDO does not require that the fire marshal “look over our shoulders on our developments.”
Hoover/Perry Rezoning for LGI Homes
The controversial rezoning request for nearly 91 acres at Hoover and Perry roads goes before the council on Thursday night. After a contentious meeting with strong neighbor opposition, the Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously to reject LGI Homes’ request to change the property’s zoning from Suburban Residential to Mixed Residential.
Martin recommends the change, however, citing the council-approved 2035 Town of Troutman Comprehensive Future Land Use Plan that shows this area moving to medium-density residential with its close proximity to the town center.
Martin also wanted residents to consider that under current zoning, mobile homes are allowed on this property.
Martin defined low density as one or two single-family residences per acre, with three or four in medium density, and five or more in high-density areas. The property’s current Suburban Residential zoning allows only two homes per acre.
To create a solid tax base, the town is working to achieve a 60 percent residential, 40 percent commercial balance. In order to attract more commercial development, Martin said the town is updating ordinances to be more business friendly, rezoning some areas, and helping to create the Troutman Business Council website.
However, getting more rooftops is key to attracting commercial development, Martin added.
Bryant favored leaving the Hoover/Perry property at 1/2-acre as the smallest lot and a maximum of 126 homes in the property’s usable area, aiming for the $400,000 price range. He also supports revisiting the 2035 Land Use Plan to see if it still meets the community’s needs.
With the 1,900 higher density residential homes that the council approved over the past year, Bryant believes the town must keep growth well-managed and balanced across socio-economic levels so Troutman will be a place people want to come and live.
“I think this is a conversation that we need to continue to have because of two things that we have said,” said Mayor Young, who supports a diversity of housing, affordability, and options. “Number one, we will follow our plan and two, we said we want to have affordable communities. I’m almost hearing there’s a clash in this particular area.”
“We are at a crossroads in an area where we have said, this is what we want. That, to me, is the challenge that we face as a council. If we start to go against what our plan is, going back to what Erika said, maybe the timing is not right today is a valid one,” said Young.
“If you want to change the plan, I think we change the plan,” continued Young. “That’s the conversation we need to have. It sounds like we need to go back and revisit some of these maps and get clear on what is it that we are saying we are agreeing to and what is it that the community is wanting for some of these areas and be sure our UDO reflects that.”
Martin noted that if the request is denied, the property owners cannot come back with a Mixed Residential request for one year.
Parks and Recreation Coordinator Emily Watson was pleased with the turnout for the town’s recent Halloween events. The first Wicked Fast or Not 5K, a costumed and untimed event, boasted 165 runners on October 28.
The Trails and Treats event on Halloween was the biggest one yet, commented Williams. Henkel added that the event was setting records, gaining in popularity, and bringing more attention to ESC Park.
Watson estimated that more than 2,500 children and adults came through the trail this year.
Town Manager Justin Longino announced several upcoming holiday events, including the Christmas Parade on December 2 at 11 a.m., the Jingle Run 5K on the Greenway at Barium Springs YMCA on December 3 at 3 p.m., and the Tree Lighting at ESC Park on December 7 at 6 p.m.
The town will also have a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner on November 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Little Joe’s Enrichment Center.
The council also set its Financial Planning Workshop for December 5 from 1 to 4 p.m. Council members will look at revenue, needs, and long-range planning at this meeting.
Thursday Night's Agenda includes:
• Review of Tuesday’s election results
• Presentation of 2016-17 Budget Year Audit
• Annexation and rezoning requests for Sutter’s Mill II (99 acres on Simpson Road)
• Annexation request for 116 Addison Place
• Introduction of new Police Officer Jason McCoy
• Business Spotlight: Van-K Wheels
• Standing reports from Parks and Recreation and the J.Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library
• Appointment of Louis Weeks for vacant inside alternate position on the Planning and Zoning Board.