‘Tail wagging the dog?’

City Council delays vote on business park rezoning, annexation until May 9

by Sarah Melton

MOUNT HOLLY – Several Mount Holly City Council members are uncomfortable approving a proposed commercial-industrial park on Mountain Island Lake without more rules guiding the development.

At the council’s April 25 meeting, after citizens and council members questioned Crescent Resources’ proposed development, the council delayed any decision until its May 9 meeting.

The Charlotte-based real estate development company wants to build the Mount Holly Business Park between the city’s water treatment plant and Mountain Island Lake dam. But to be viable, the park would need access to the city’s water and sewer utilities, and that would require the town to annex the 128-acre tract.

But at their April meeting, some council members expressed concern that Crescent has not provided enough detailed information about its development plan for the site and, at the same time, wants no conditions placed on the zoning.

Dale Stewart, of Land Design, told council members previously that the site would likely yield 500,000 square feet of buildings in a few areas.

“Someone could come and buy the whole site and build one building or someone could buy it and build three buildings,” Stewart said. “So I wish I could say there would be one or three buildings, but we simply just don’t know that.”

At previous meetings, officials have discussed placing a deed restriction on the property, but Mayor Bryan Hough said the restriction would not be a document enforced by city officials and it would lay out “what we don’t want, not knowing what we may get.”

“I want jobs and economic development and who wouldn’t?” Hough said. “It’s like saying, ‘I want good well water.’ Who’s for bad water? I think the issue is how do we go about it, and … I am not comfortable with the control aspect of it. I am not sure what we are going to get.”

Council member Carolyn Breyare said she was concerned about the increased traffic the project would bring to N.C. 273.

Councilman Jim Hope said he sees too many “unknowns” in the project to support it completely. He favors a conditional-use zoning, in which the city could approve more specific guidelines.

“We are getting to the point where the tail is going to wag the dog if we are not careful,” Hope said.

On April 11, the city held a public comment session on Crescent’s request for rezoning and annexation. Many other people, including Bryan Hartney, of Charlotte, voiced the same concerns as some council members.

Hartney suggested the council require a conditional-use zoning on the property and insist on an environmental impact study as one condition.

“Mount Holly has been a wonderful steward to the environment by having this piece of property undeveloped, and there is going to be a greenway there,” he said. “Imagine walking along a greenway with your family and having an industrial park there.”

Ann Danzi, who serves on the Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission and Catawba River Executive Committee, said Crescent Resources has addressed a few of residents’ concerns but still needs to address issues surrounding:

• How much impervious surface, such as parking lots, will the development company bring to the site?

• How will Crescent prevent sediment from construction and those parking lots from reaching the lake?

• How will the development affect the greenway?

“I believe a conditional-use permit is appropriate and the only way to ensure protection of the Catawba River and the Mount Holly greenway and the only way to ensure Mount Holly citizens have a stake in what is developed in the community,” Danzi said.

Phil Hayes, director of land sales for Crescent, said the company is sensitive to community concerns. Crescent can build the Mount Holly Business Park without harming the Catawba River – as long as correct measures are in place.

“This is a classic chicken-and-egg situation,” Hayes said. “We are going to work hard to bring clean, responsible businesses to Mount Holly that will create a community tax base and needed jobs. We will pursue suitable building opportunities we can develop, but we need to have flexible zoning in place to attract attention.”

Mount Holly Senior Planner Greg Beal said the council could move forward with the rezoning request and take up to six months to make a decision on the annexation request or deny the rezoning request, which would automatically deny the annexation request. Crescent could reapply for a conditional-use or light industrial rezoning and the property annexation again if the council denies its original request.

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