The next City Council meeting will be on Monday at 6pm at City Works. You can find the agenda here: https://cityofbelmont.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Id=507

The two biggest items on the agenda are rezoning requests for Dixon Village in North Belmont and the Smith Property across from the new middle school.

The Dixon Village request is from Habitat for Humanity to build a mixed income neighborhood in North Belmont (off Lee Street). The proposal calls for 28 homes, one-third of which will be homes built through Habitat’s traditional “sweat equity” process, and the other two-thirds will be market-rate entry-level homes. The Planning Board heard this proposal at its January meeting and recommended against approval on a 5-1 vote, largely because of concerns about the density of the project (current zoning allows for 23 homes on the site by-right, versus the 28 they are looking for).

Ordinarily, I think density is one area we need to be very mindful of. However, in this case, the difference between what is allowed and what Habitat is asking for is only 5 houses – which I don’t think is likely to significantly alter the impact of this project. However, because of the density issue, the Planning Board did not have a chance to review some of the other aspects of this proposal that I think warrant a little more study (things like setbacks, the road coming into the neighborhood, etc.).

I think this is a worthy project and addresses a very real need around affordability in our community. I also believe Habitat’s use of a mixed-income approach to this project is a very good idea and could potentially serve as a model for future projects (even beyond Belmont). So, I am optimistic that we will be able to figure out a way forward.

The second rezoning proposal involves the Smith property directly across from the new middle school. This project calls for the construction of 57 townhomes and 42 single-family homes (99 units in total) while also providing for the realignment of Belwood Drive.

The realignment of Belwood Drive is very important (as DOT has made it very clear that fixing it is not a priority for them), however, I am concerned about the number of townhomes that are proposed for this project and the impact that will have on traffic in the area. At the same time, failing to realign Belwood Drive will also create traffic issues after the new school opens. And I have not completely decided which problem is worse. I think some allowance for additional units makes sense in this situation if it helps get Belwood Drive fixed. However, I am concerned that we may be going too far.

If you are interested in attending the meeting or participating in public comment, the City has some details about how that will work on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/cityofbelmont/posts/10158824882061648

You can also feel free to leave me a comment below!

blueprints

Next week is shaping up to be a busy week. There is a City Council Workshop on Tuesday (the 19th), a Planning Board Meeting on Thursday (the 21st), and Council’s annual retreat kicks off on Friday (the 22nd). All meetings are at CityWorks.

Agenda for Workshop
Agenda for Planning Board

At our workshop on Tuesday, we will be getting an update from the City’s IT staff about the various software and technology upgrades that have been made over the last few years. We will also be getting an overview of how the City is guarding against cybersecurity threats. It should be a very interesting presentation.

We will also be getting an update on various transportation and pedestrian improvement projects planned and/or underway in the City. Council will also be discussing a potential leasing of the old Planning Department building (which was vacated when the Planning staff moved to CityWorks).
On Thursday, the Planning Board will be hearing two development proposals. The first is a Habitat for Humanity Project in North Belmont (off Lee Road) for 28 mixed-income single-family homes. A summary of the proposal is here: Link

The second proposal is for the Smith Property located directly across from the new Belmont Middle School on South Point Road. The project calls for 43 single-family homes and 56 townhomes and provides for the realignment and reconstruction of the intersection of Belwood Drive and South Point Road. A summary of the proposal is here: Link

If you would like to comment on either of those projects, you can either comment in person at the Planning Board’s meeting or email your comments to the Planning staff before the meeting (contacts for each project are located here: https://www.cityofbelmont.org/projects/). I am also happy to pass along your comments to staff if you would like.

Council’s annual retreat will be Friday evening and Saturday morning (1/22-23). The agenda is still being finalized, but it will be open to the public. I will post more information on this as it becomes available.

If you have any questions, let me know!

An update from our meeting on Monday:

-We had a good conversation about the plans for the new Rec Center. Overall, the plans incorporate most of what we were trying to accomplish with this building. At a very high level, there will be three indoor basketball courts on the first floor and then an indoor running track on the second floor. There are also a variety of different rooms to facilitate different types of training/classes and exercise. The second floor will also have some flex use space attached to a patio overlooking the Catawba that will be available to rent. We also talked about locating the proposed skate park at the Rec Center site (as opposed to locating it in Davis Park). The Parks and Rec Board will discuss this further when they review the Rec Center plans later this week.

-Council also talked through a strategy for our paving program. We decided to continue with our data-driven approach (based on the results of the last street condition survey) for the fall and will look to do a larger program once the loan balance from the last large paving program is paid off next Spring. I requested that we set aside some funds in that larger program for sidewalk repair/extension. With COVID, more people are out using our sidewalks, and I know that some of them could use a little TLC. If you happen to notice any sidewalks around town that need some work (especially if they present a tripping hazard), or if there are any gaps between sections of sidewalk where it might make sense to create a connection, please let me know so that I can add it to my list.

-Council also ordered the demolition of the building at 951 Cason Street (across from Linford Park). Per staff, actual demolition should begin in about 3-4 weeks, and then it will take roughly four weeks to take the building down. Based on that, demo should be complete sometime in October.

-We also had an interesting conversation about affordable housing. Staff provided an overview of some of the strategies that other municipalities employ in this area, and we directed them to continuing researching best practices so that we can decide what makes sense for Belmont. Representatives from Habitat for Humanity also made a presentation about a small (28 home) mixed-income development that they are trying to put together on a site in North Belmont (off Lee Road). Apparently, this particular project almost came to fruition several years ago but fell apart due to some funding issues. They are still in the early phases of this project, but we encouraged them to continue communicating with us as they move forward.

Our next Council Workshop will be Monday at 4pm at Techworks. You can find a copy of the agenda and a link to the live stream here: https://cityofbelmont.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Id=431

Here are a few of the highlights:

-There will be a presentation of the initial design for the new recreation center. You can find the schematics and some renderings on the city’s website here: https://www.cityofbelmont.org/recreationcenter. If you have any feedback on the designs, I would love to get your input. There will also be a community meeting in September where you can view the plans and provide input.

-We will also be talking about our fall street paving program and deciding how we want to approach street maintenance. The City Engineer has done a needs analysis around both streets that are in the greatest need of repair and streets that get the most use. You can find that linked here.

-We will also be reviewing the status of the code enforcement case at 951 Cason Street. Earlier this summer, Council set a final deadline to complete the needed repairs at this property by the time of this workshop (8/17). So, we will receive an update on the status of this building and proceed accordingly.

-We will also be having a discussion about affordable housing in Belmont. Representatives from Habitat for Humanity will also provide an overview of a mixed-income project they are considering in the city.

A quick update from our meeting on Monday:

In addition to accepting the Governor’s Highway Safety Grant for a new DWI enforcement officer in our police department, staff announced that the City was also successful in an application for a Carolina Thread Trail grant that will help fund the design work for the Abbey Creek Greenway. The Tarheel Trailblazers also received a grant from the Thread Trail for the Phase I improvements in Rocky Branch Park. Both of these grants will do a lot to help grow and enhance the greenway/trail system in Belmont.

After reviewing the South Central code enforcement case, we had a general discussion about code enforcement in Belmont. Staff indicated that there are several other cases ready for review by City Council. The general consensus among the Council was that we would like to work through as many of those cases as we can before we get too busy later on in the year. So look for more of these cases to show up on future agendas over the next month or two. I think that it’s important to not allow these to linger for too long as many of these cases involve genuine health and safety risks to the nearby residents. We are still on-track to review the pending commercial case in North Belmont (on Cason Street) at our next workshop on 8/17.

Our next workshop will focus on affordable housing, where we will get an overview of some of the techniques and strategies that other municipalities in NC have deployed to maintain affordability for their residents. I believe that will be a very interesting discussion and worth tuning into if you have the time.

If you have any questions, leave me a comment!