Charter school requests city annexation

by Alan Hodge

MOUNT HOLLY – A local charter school wants Mount Holly officials to annex land at its new, permanent location.

Mountain Island Charter School which currently operates out of facilities at New Covenant United Methodist Church on Lucia-Riverbend Highway, plans to build a 40-acre campus on Horseshoe Bend Beach Road, off of N.C. 16 and across from the Stonewater neighborhood. School chairwoman Kelly Pledger announced that the school had applied for annexation at the Mount Holly City Council’s Jan. 23 meeting.

“We want to be inclusive and cooperative in the process of becoming a part of the city of Mount Holly,” Pledger said.

The annexation process could take three or four months and involve technical reviews, public hearings, zoning assignment and a utility service cost analysis, said Mount Holly Planning Director Greg Beal. A utilities extension proposal could come before the city council during its Feb. 13 meeting.

If annexed, city officials would connect the campus to the city’s sewer and water service, and it would pay for the utility extension. However, due to the school’s public status, the school would be exempt from paying property taxes, possibly placing a tax burden on the city.

Pledger also said that the school is waiting to hear back from the N.C. Department of Transportation about potential traffic congestion along two-lane Horseshoe Bend Beach Road.

“We took it upon ourselves to hire a traffic consultant,” Pledger said. “They submitted their information to the (state’s Department of Transportation), and we are waiting to hear back from them.”

Although the school only pulls about a quarter of its students from Gaston County – the other 75 percent comes from Mecklenburg, Lincoln and Catawba counties – Pledger emphasized that the surrounding community could benefit from the school’s facilities. School officials plan to build a gym and several athletic fields at the site.

Pledger said that the school’s board also would consider making classrooms available for community meetings and functions. Board members plan to begin the 2012-13 school year at the new location.

The campus will give the school, which now enrolls about 700 in kindergarten through eighth-grade, room to expand to the 12th grade, enrolling about 1,100 students. School officials plan to add an additional grade level to the school each year, with its first senior class graduating in 2016.

Other business

• The council told the city’s Parks and Recreation Department staff to move forward with its application for a $75,000 Recreational Trails Program Grant and a $5,000 Adopt-a-Trail Grant. The funds would come from the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation and be used to widen 2,300-feet of the Mountain Island Park trail.

• Following a driving tour of Mount Holly, Steve Lander, a senior engineer with U.S. Infrastructure, told the council that 42 percent of city-maintained roads need work, such as crack sealing and repaving. But more than half of the city’s roads are in good condition, he said.

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