Council denies charter school annexation

Agrees to extend sewer and utilities services

by Alan Hodge

After much discussion, Mount Holly city officials decided against annexing the proposed Mountain Island Charter School planned for construction on Horseshoe Bend Beach Road near N.C. 16, citing traffic concerns.

However, the city did vote during its March 26 meeting to extend water and sewer service to the campus at the school’s expense.

“I don’t see how we can deny utilities to the area,” said city council member Jerry Bishop, who made the motion to extend the utilities service. “We can put meters in front of the school and let the school deal with it.”

Council members also had the options of refusing annexation and utilities services or granting the utilities extensions after first going through a rezoning and annexation process. By voting to extend utilities services without annexation, the city recognizes the school as an outside customer and will charge the school double the rates for sewer and water. The school will have to meet Gaston County zoning and planning regulations since the campus will be located outside of Mount Holly city limits.

Mountain Island school board chairwoman Kelly Pledger said the school will forge ahead.

“We are disappointed about the annexation, but appreciate Mount Holly deciding to extend the utilities,” she said. “Our next step is to sit down with the Gaston County planning and zoning officials to get the approval we need from them to move forward.”

Some council members expressed concern about potential traffic problems on the two-lane Horseshoe Bend Beach Road and the ability of Mount Holly police and fire departments to provide service to the school during an emergency.

“I am not against the school,” city council member J. Jason Gowen said. “But there is an increased risk based on its location. The infrastructure is not in place to appropriately serve the school with fire and police response, and I see that as a huge risk.”

Kevin Holland, a Mountain Island Charter School parent and volunteer on the school’s facilities committee, said he thinks that safety concerns about Horseshoe Bend Beach Road may be premature.

“The school won’t add any immediate issues,” Holland said. “Since the students will be in grade K-8, none of them will be driving. They will be taken to school and picked up by buses and parents during a small window of time. The school hired Charlotte-based Design Resource Group to complete a traffic study that was submitted to the N.C. Department of Transportation. The study featured diagrams of the existing traffic lanes from the intersection of N.C. 16 and Horseshoe Bend Beach Road, past the Stonewater Bay neighborhood development, to the proposed school location. It evaluated traffic scenarios for the peak school conditions for now until 2016 when the school reaches its full capacity of approximately 1,100 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Changes that may need to be made, the report said, include the addition of two turning lanes at N.C. 16 and dedicated entry and exit lanes at the school site.

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