Our next City Council meeting will be Monday at 6:45pm at TechWorks. You can find the agenda and a link to the livestream here: http://ow.ly/LtyE50C7yFL

We will be holding a public hearing on and voting on updates to the Land Development Code to reflect several of the changes that we discussed earlier in the year around public engagement with the development process. The primary changes are requiring the placement of new signs with information about the proposed development (a rendering of the sign is attached to this post) and requiring neighborhood meetings earlier in the development process and for additional development processes (including major development plans and conventional rezones).

I think these changes will do a lot to facilitate greater community involvement in the development process while also ensuring that interested residents can easily locate information about a proposed development (with much of the information provided right on the sign). I’m looking forward to discussing these further at our meeting.

We will also be considering a contract for the Rocky Branch Park Trails Enhancement project. If approved, construction would begin sometime this winter.

There will also be an update on the Abbey Creek Greenway project and, we will also be considering the approval of some surveying and hydrology studies for that project. You can see a map of the proposed alignment and some conceptual drawings (which actually look pretty cool) here: http://ow.ly/XXzI50C7zFM

Any questions? Let me know!

new rezoning sign

An update from our workshop on Monday:

We had a pretty wide-ranging conversation on several different aspects of development in Belmont. Staff started off by sharing some interesting statistics about growth in Belmont. Since 2010, our population has grown by about 20% and much of the fastest growth in Gaston County is occurring in Mount Holly, Belmont, and Cramerton (which you’ll notice are the three communities closest to Charlotte). Last year, Belmont saw about 350 new housing starts, and we are on track to meet or surpass that this year. So, we are seeing some very real growth (especially within the last two years or so).

To address this, we decided to begin making some updates to our Comprehensive Land Use Plan and our Land Development Code that will target different areas of the city to ensure that the planning for those areas is consistent with the community’s (and Council’s) vision for that area. Some of the changes we discussed involved limiting high density multi-family housing (i.e. apartment buildings) to the Wilkinson Blvd corridor and specifically keeping them out of the downtown district. We also discussed what sort of residential development we’d like to see downtown (such as second- or third-story units built on top of first-floor commercial/office space). Building height was another topic of interest, and we talked about the importance of preserving the vista of our downtown and not crowding it out with buildings that are too large.

I also suggested that we look at our planning specifically in the area where the Catawba Crossings project is being proposed. I’ve heard some concerns about what the proposed bridge would mean for that part of the peninsula. I think it makes sense for the City Council to be proactive about creating the vision for that part of the City. So, we’ll look at creating some specific planning in a Small Area Plan for that part of the city.

Given the scope of the changes we discussed, we’ll also be soliciting public input by way of a series of meet-and-greets/coffee hours in different neighborhoods throughout the City. Look for more information on these early next year. You can, of course, always feel free to reach out to me directly.

There’s a lot going on in our City, so if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!

Our next workshop will be on Monday, October 19 at 4pm at Techworks. You can find the agenda and a link to the livestream here: http://ow.ly/QIUT50BUuyR

The focus of the workshop will be an in-depth discussion on development in Belmont (specifically around things like density, building height, and the appropriate location for multifamily development) in order to determine if we need to make any changes to the Land Development Code and/or the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Both the Land Development Code and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan help determine what type of development occurs within the city and where it occurs, so we want to ensure that these plans and ordinances align with the Council’s current vision for the City. I think this will be a very interesting and important discussion, as whatever changes we make will have a significant impact for future development projects.

An update from our Monday meeting:

-Both the rezoning requests for the new hospital and the new recreation center were approved. In discussing the hospital, the height of the proposed building (about 100 feet) generated some discussion around where additional building height is appropriate in the city. The concerns weren’t necessarily specific to the hospital, but we did agree to take a closer look at things like this as part of a broader review of land use in the city (more on that below).

-We also finalized the Tree Ordinance that we initially took up last month. The only substantive change was to place Residential Infill development back on the exemption list. Staff confirmed that the way our ordinances are currently structured, Infill Development can get a credit for tree save to use against their landscaping requirements, which should provide enough of an incentive for property owners to preserve existing trees where it makes sense without the City being too heavy-handed from a regulatory perspective.

-We also received an update from our new Code Enforcement officer on the various cases that she is working. Of note is the case involving the commercial building on Cason Street in North Belmont. City Council approved a demolition ordinance for that building in August, but the property owner has since filed suit against the City. So, that case is effectively on hold until the litigation is resolved.

-Council also received an update from the City Manager on a couple capital projects that have been completed. These include the purchase of a new city bus, the Art Wrap project on the utility boxes on 6th Street that the Main Street program has been coordinating, and the construction/rehab of sidewalk along South Point Road and South Main Street.

-At the end of the meeting, the Council had a discussion about our next workshop. We decided to postpone our joint meeting with the Environmental Sustainability Board in favor of having a broader, strategic discussion about land use and planning in Belmont. Given that development interest continues to be strong in the City, we thought it best to have this conversation sooner rather than later as any changes that we would need to make to our ordinances or land use plan would take time to put together. So, we’ll being tackling that at our next workshop and look to meet with the ESB at a future workshop.

The next City Council meeting will be Monday (10/5) at 6:45pm at TechWorks. You can find an agenda and a link to the livestream here: http://ow.ly/HL8r50BI2Ic

-There are two significant rezonings on the agenda. The first is for CaroMont’s new hospital in Belmont. The site of the hospital is right off I-85 at Exit 27. The project plan calls for a 54-bed hospital, medical office building, and a future parking garage. The hospital will also likely become a significant employer in the city, with the addition of up to 400 jobs on the new medical campus. You can find some renderings of the buildings, maps, and other details here: http://ow.ly/UnDR50BI3rK

-The other rezoning involves the project to build the new Recreation Center. There haven’t been any significant changes to this project in the last few weeks, but you can find the packet with building renderings, traffic and parking information, and maps here: http://ow.ly/u90P50BI3Aa

-We will also be taking a final look at (and voting on) the Tree Preservation Ordinance that we initially reviewed last month.
-The Council will also be receiving an update on various Code Enforcement issues in the city.

If you have any questions, let me know!