Troutman Council tables Limelights decision pending work on Strategic Master Plan, UDO
BY DEBBIE PAGE
At the Thursday's Troutman Town Council meeting, council members voted 5-0 to table Limelights owners' request to be rezoned from light industrial to a conditionally zoned office and institutional status after extensive public and council comments.
Limelights Hair Salon, which has operated for 12 years at three locations in Troutman, added two interior Airbnb units and one “tiny house” unit in February, which has been a bone of contention between the town and owners David and Tracy Garland since.
Town Planner Erika Martin reviewed a detailed timeline of communications, discussions, letters, a refusal to stop Airbnb operations, $2,700 in accrued fines, and a September request for rezoning, which received a unanimous recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Board.
Referencing the draft of the town’s Strategic Master Plan draft, Martin recommended the property be zoned residential to allow Airbnbs in that area, which is planned as a “scenic gateway” transition between the Exit 42 commercial district and the downtown area.
However, the change to residential to accommodate the Airbnbs would prohibit the salon use.
The Garlands original plan, which was approved by the town for the property, included adding a total of five “accessory buildings” for “office” use, but they decided to create Airbnbs instead, which is not in compliance with town ordinances.
Martin also noted the requested OI zoning is not proposed for that area nor found on future or existing plans.
David Garland, who is on active duty in the military, said he was unaware of much of Martin’s timeline. He implored council members to support his and other small businesses, noting that their Airbnbs had earned “super host” status and provided a needed service for Troutman visitors, including Lowes corporate guests and tourists.
Garland also noted that the neat and attractively landscaped property has a residential look that blends into the planned residential corridor. He stated that the couple has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the property, which would be lost, along with employees’ jobs.
Tracy Garland also spoke, again challenging Martin’s timeline of events but noting that she did not wish to fight with the town. Her goals are to enhance Troutman’s business community and to provide jobs and tax revenue, she said. When Garland asked supporters of the rezoning to stand, about 25 audience members rose to demonstrate their solidarity.
Joe West, who is assisting the Garlands in their plans to add four more Airbnb tiny houses in the back of the property, reminded council members of the importance of small businesses: “Small potatoes hold the big potatoes up,” he said.
West also asserted that the future land-use plan and guidelines should not blind people to change that was “good for Troutman and other businesses in Iredell County.”
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel ran the meeting in the absence of Mayor Teross Young.
After the public hearing closed, council member Sally Williams suggested leaving the zoning light industrial and recommended the Garlands apply for a special-use permit to operate the Airbnbs or changing to mixed residential, both of which Tracy Garland was open to.
Martin noted that both would require text amendments to town ordinances, which would have to go again before the planning board and then back to Town Council.
Council member Paul Bryant noted the Garlands’ hard work, commitment, and entrepreneurial mindset to grow Limelights over the years. He wanted to find a solution that would be positive for the town, zoning rules, and Limelights.
Henkel concurred, noting that although current ordinances and codes do not address Airbnbs, “they are not going away.” He proposed asking the Stantec consultants, who are tweaking the town’s new Strategic Master Plan, to address Airbnbs and tiny houses in the final plan.
“We have to get our zoning ordinances right,” he said.
Though Henkel did not want to shut the Garland’s Airbnbs down, the council had no other choice under current zoning rules.
“We’ve got to work something out. If we wink on this, we cannot hold someone else accountable later," he explained.
“We are looking at how to come together to and keep Limelights as a prosperous enterprise while adhering to zoning laws and the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance),” added Henkel, asking the Garlands to table their request for one to two months until these documents were finalized and approved by council and thus creating a “win-win situation for us both.”
Bryant then put forth a four-part motion: table the zoning request, which will not be considered until after the revised UDO and Strategic Master Plan are approved; the Garlands can continue renting interior Airbnbs until December 31 or until a new resolution of the issue; the Garlands must cease renting the “accessory building” zoned for office use as of November 1 until a resolution is reached; and the fines will be “held in abeyance” until the zoning request is settled.
However, Bryant warned if the Garlands continued to rent the tiny house, the couple will be liable for all fines, which could possibly be waived if they faithfully followed the guidelines of Bryant’s motion. However, they could get an office tenant, as zoned, for the tiny house if they wished.
The Garlands agreed to tabling the request and adhering to Bryant’s motion, which passed the council unanimously.
Council members also:
► Reminded the community to vote. Early voting is available Wednesday, October 17, through Friday, November 2, at the Board of Elections (203 Stockton Street, Statesville), the War Memorial Building (220 N. Maple Street, Mooresville), and Peninsula Baptist Church (687 Brawley School Road, Mooresville) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and on Saturday, November 3 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On November 6, General Election Day, voters must vote at their assigned polling place.
To request an absentee ballot, complete the Absentee Ballot Request form (https://www.co.iredell.nc.us/DocumentCenter/View/62/Absentee-Ballot-Request-PDF) and mail it to the Iredell County Board of Elections office at 203 Stockton Street Statesville, NC 28677 or fax it to the BOE at 704-832-2312. Ballots must be postmarked or received by October 30.
For further information call the Board of Elections at 704-878-3140.
► Heard a brief overview of draft of the Strategic Master Plan by Scott Lane of Stantec.
► Were invited by J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library’s branch manager Kelli Goodwin to the October 23 town-sponsored performance of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” on October 23 (4 p.m.) and to the Troutman Friends of The Library reception on October 25 (4 to 6 p.m.).
Goodwin also asked community members to come by to take a survey on desired programming to be added by the library now through October 15.
► Unanimously approved annexation and rezoning to heavy industrial request for Falls Park, LLC, a 1.88 acre tract at 149 Houston Road.
► Unanimously approved facades for Troutman Walk Townhomes (329 Lytton Street), the Troutman Fire Department Reconstruction (115 S Main Street) and Safe Harbour Storage (111 Westmoreland Road).
► Unanimously approved creation of Capital Project Funds for the Mill Village Sewer Improvement Project and the 2018-2019 Street Improvement Project.
► Unanimously approved a resolution authorizing application for funding from NC DEQ Division Of Water Infrastructure for a wastewater system improvement project.
► Appointed Matthew Weber as an alternate to the Board of Adjustment.
► Reminded the community to wear purple on Fridays in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.