This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.
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Here is a summary of the agenda of the 8/17/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below
Invocation by Chaplain Robert Ford of Glenn R. Frye Memorial Hospital
A. Hickory City Council’s FY 2009 - 10 Priorities and Action Plan End of Year Report - Each year Council adopts the City Council Priorities and Action Plan that is derived from the Annual Council-Staff Retreat and the City’s master plans and initiatives. These priorities and action plans are used throughout the year as a guide to ensure that City departments advocate the philosophy defined by City Council. Following the close of each fiscal year, staff reports to City Council the results of the Priority and Action Plan.
B. Approval of Property Tax Refund as Recommended by Catawba County Tax Office to Huffman Grading, Inc. in the Amount of $31,876.61 - A refund is warranted due to duplicate listings of business personal property; once for an account listed in the City of Hickory and the other for business personal property located in St. Stephens Fire District. In 2005 the address was listed incorrectly on the listing form
as being located in the City of Hickory and continued through 2009. The bill for 2010 has been corrected. Information has been verified pursuant to the Catawba County Tax Office.
C. Resolution of Intent for Petition of the City of Hickory to Close City-Owned 60-Foot Right-of-Way on 9th Street, NE (Authorize Public Hearing for September 21, 2010)
D. Approval to Amend Stanford Park Curfew Hours for the 2010 Cycle North Carolina Event to be Held on September 27 – 28, 2010 - Staff requests City Council to grant a waiver of Stanford Park’s curfew ordinance for the 2010 Cycle North Carolina bicycle ride for participants on Monday, September 27, 2010.
This is a week long cross-state event coordinated by North Carolina Amateur Sports. It is designed to promote physical fitness and health while providing an economic impact and publicity to local communities. Twelve Hundred bicyclists are expected to participate which starts in Asheville and will conclude in Ocean Isle Beach. Stanford Park has been identified as the local “tent city” where some participants will stay. Riders will begin to arrive in Hickory the morning of September 27 and depart the morning of September 28, 2010. Staff recommends approval.
E. Approve Request by the Coworker Appreciation Day Committee for Eight (8) Days of Vacation Time -
The Coworker Appreciation Day Committee is requesting eight (8) days of vacation time to be used as door prizes for Coworker Appreciation Day scheduled for September 9, 2010 at the Hickory Metro Convention Center. For the past few years, City Council has approved eight (8) days, with five (5) of those days used as the grand prize and the other three (3) days as additional door prizes.
F. Amendment to Traffic Ordinance by Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 11th St, NW from the intersection with 12th Ave, NW north approximately 2,475 feet to the intersection with 15th Ave NW, 11th St Cir, NW from the intersections with 11th St, NW approximately 1,375 feet, and 11th St Cir Dr, NW from the intersection with 11th St Cir, NW approximately 250 feet to the Dead End - Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program an application was received for a speed limit reduction along 11th St, NW as indicated above and primarily serving the Forest Hills Neighborhood. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired. The petition packages were received and were determined by Staff to be valid and met the 75% signature requirement. Staff recommends approval.
G. Amend the Traffic Ordinance by reducing the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph along 5th St, NW from the intersection with 16th Av, NW north approximately 2,040 feet to the Dead End, 5th St Dr, NW from the intersection with 5th St, NW north approximately 1,090 feet to the Dead End, and 18th Av Ln, NW from the intersection with 5th St, NW east approximately 720 feet to the Dead End - Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program an application was received for a speed limit reduction along 5th St, NW as indicated above and primarily serving the Clydesdale Subdivision. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired. The petition packages were received and were determined by Staff to be valid and met the 75% signature requirement. Staff
H. Amend the Traffic Ordinance by reducing the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph along 42nd Av Dr, NW from a point approximately 280 feet east of the intersection with 1st St Dr NW wand which is the City Limits west approximately 1,400 feet to a point which begins an existing 25 mph speed zone, 1st St Dr, NW from the intersection with 42nd Av Dr, NW north approximately 1,800 feet to the Dead End, 41st Av, NW from the intersection with 42nd Av Dr, NW north approximately 390 feet to the Dead End, 42nd Av Ct, NW from the intersection with 1st St Dr, NW west approximately 320 feet to the Dead End, 43rd Av Dr, NW from the intersection with 1st St Dr, NW west approximately 760 feet to the Dead End, 43rd Av Ln, NW from the intersection with 1st St Dr, NW west approximately 520 feet to the Dead End, 44th Av, NW from the intersection with 1st St Dr, NW west approximately 800 feet to the Dead End, 2nd St Ln, NW from the intersection with 44th Av, NW south approximately 250 feet to the Dead End, 2nc St Ln, NW from the intersection with 44th Av, NW north approximately 320 feet to the Dead End, 3rd St Ct, NW from the intersection with 44th Av, NW south approximately 320 feet to the Dead End, and 3rd St Ct, NW from the intersection with 44th Av, NW north approximately 380 feet to the Dead End - Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program an application was received for a speed limit reduction along 42nd Ave. Dr., NW as indicated above and primarily serving the Moore’s Ferry development. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired. The petition packages were received and were determined by Staff to be valid and met the 75% signature requirement. Staff
I. Amend the Traffic Ordinance by reducing the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph along Blue Sky Court from the intersection with Robinson Rd. east approximately 1,100 feet to the Dead End, and Treadwell Lane from the intersection with Blue Sky Court west approximately 350 feet to the Dead End - Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program an application was received for a speed limit reduction along Blue Sky Court as indicated above and primarily serving the Blue Sky Acres subdivision. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired. The petition packages were received and were determined by Staff to be valid and met the 75% signature requirement. Staff recommends approval.
J. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs -
Applicants Joshua and Misty High is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s Police Officers Homebuyers Assistance Program for property located at 459 14th Avenue, NE in the amount of $10,000.00. Funds are budgeted for the above through the City’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2009 and/or program income received through the Community Development Block Grant Program. The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s 2009 Urgent Repair Program for emergency-related repairs not to exceed $5,000.00. Funds are budgeted through Hickory’s Community Development
Department funding received in FY 2009-10.
• Terry Huffman; 841 18th St, NE
• Marcy Wilson; 218 7th St, SE
Kenworth Development Group is undergoing an improvement/repair project at Kenworth Hall in the amount of $147,709.00 and requests refinancing of two (2) existing loans inthe amount of $279,811.23. One loan has ten (10) years remaining and the other has fourteen (14). The request is to refinance to twenty (20) years at the existing interest rate of 1.5%. Kenworth Development is current with all payments and the refinance will assist in the improvements to Kenworth Hall. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee at its June 5, 2010 meeting recommended approval of the above applicant requests.
K. Approve Offer to Purchase and Contract From the City of Hickory to Joel B. and Jonathan T. Mauser For the Purchase of Property Located Adjacent to the City’s Public Services Complex on 9th Avenue, NE in the Amount of $93,000.00 - This is a 3.2 acre vacant lot adjacent to and between the Public Services Complex located on 9th Avenue, NE and currently owned by Joel and Jonathan Mauser. These are two (2) 1.6 acre tracts located on each side of the Public Services driveway. The 0.3 tract consisting of the existing driveway is also included which is shown as an existing ROW but will clear up any potential deed questions. The current Public Services Complex property was partially purchased from the Mauser Family in the 1980’s. The purchase of this vacant property would be a good investment for future expansion of this facility, which will be needed in the future to continue to serve our citizens. Miller and Associates performed an appraisal of the property dated April 27, 2010 for $93,000.00. The land value is approximately $162,525.00 with an approximate tax value of $50,789.00 per acre. The expense of this property would be shared equally by both the general and public utilities fund. Staff recommends approval to purchase said property. To expedite a timely closing, City staff is requesting two readings be held on August 17, 2010.
L. Proclamation Declaring August 9, 2010 as “Marine Corps League Day” in the City of Hickory in Recognition of the Marine Corps and the First National Convention of the League to be Held in North Carolina
New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Resolution and Order for Petition of the City of Hickory to Close 16-Foot Alley Adjacent to City-Owned Property Located Behind Bank of Granite Building Between Main Avenue, NW and 1st Avenue, NW - On July 6, 2010 the City of Hickory petitioned to close a 16-foot alley adjacent to City-owned property located behind Bank of Granite Building between Main Avenue, NW and 1st Avenue, NW in order to allow sale of the property. This portion of alley is no longer necessary for public use, and it appears that the closing of this portion of right-of-way is not contrary to public interest. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on July 23, July 30, August 6 and August 13, 2010. Chuck Hanson made the presentation, whichwas given the Unanimous consent of Council.
2. Petition 10-04 – Rezoning of Property Located at 926 Lenoir Rhyne Boulevard, SE From Planned Development Mixed Use (PD-MU) to C-4 Commercial - This 0.68 acre property is located at 926 Lenoir Rhyne Boulevard, SE and is owned by Claude and Mariette Gagne. The property owners petitioned to have the property rezoned from Planned Development Mixed Use (PD-MU) to C-4 Commercial. The Hickory Future Land Use and Transportation Plan classifies the property as Regional Commercial as being suitable for retail and service uses which cater to local and regional clientele. The C-4 Commercial district provides land-use standards, which accommodate these types of land-uses. The property owners indicate they intend to continue to utilize the property for commercial purposes. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on July 28, 2010 voted unanimously to recommend approval of the requested rezoning. Staff finds the request to be consistent with Hickory by Choice and recommends approval.
Alder Fox had concerns about the changes to Commercial Development that have taken place in that area and the emphasis. Mr. Overby stated that if a plan hasn’t happened in 12 months to 2 years, then action will be taken by staff to revert the property back to its former status. Alder Fox further stated that this is a major entrance way into Hickory. She stated “What are some of the criteria that are going to make that a better looking addition…?” Mr. Overby stated that the standards are across the board. Alder Fox asked if most of the single shot developments along Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard are straight C-4 zoning. Alderman Meisner interjected that evidently the property owner couldn’t assemble his tracts with adjoining tracks to make a planned unit so he is pulling his unit out. Mr. Overby stated that yes the adjoining three tracts are under different ownership. Alderman Lail asked if PDMU has a minimum acreage to which Mr. Overby stated yes. Alderman Lail stated that essentially makes the other properties non-performing to which Mr. Overby stated no that they are still performing in the district in and of itself. Alderman Meisner stated that sometimes we are hindering property owners from developing their own property by keeping them in PDMU. Mr. Overby stated yes it can. PDMU should be for larger projects of significant scale.Alderman Meisner stated that he understands Alder Fox’s concerns. It would be nice if those 4 or 5 lots would join together and not have so many driveways and parking lots. Council approved - 5 yes (Lail, Meisner, Seaver, Guess, Patton) and 1 No (Fox).
The Hound is wondering whatever happened to the rewrite of Hickory By Choice. It was supposed to be done by April and now we are into August. To me there are only two choices of explanations. The former document was such a mess that the myriad of mazes that it created are taking more time to address than anyone could have ever imagined. The other choice is that there are people sticking their noses into the rewrite and to please the various overbearing intruders in the process, it is taking this long to add the extra layers of a maze to the original convoluted system. I certainly hope it is the former.
Alder Fox’s mindset shows the thinking that has been entrenched into development issues over the last decade. If she wants that property developed in a manner to suit her personal tastes, then she needs to buy the property and follow her heart's desire. It is hard for property owners to consolidate property in this manner and gain this communal agreement that she desires. The only way what she desires can happen is for a major broker/developer to come along and consolidate the property. I think one of the problems this community has seen is such a consolidation. Commercial Property in fewer and fewer owners hands is not good for the marketplace.
Such consolidation is not good for the local economy. It means over inflated rental and lease costs for potential and existing entrepreneurs. And it causes major real estate conglomerates to be less responsive to the needs of their tenants. There will be more of an attitude of “You’ll have to deal with me. Where else you gonna go?” Can’t you see that is not a good principle? We need more property owners, more competition, and fewer impediments to the flexibility of the marketplace.
New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Second Reading - Approve Offer to Purchase and Contract From the City of Hickory to Joel B. and Jonathan T. Mauser For the Purchase of Property Located Adjacent to the City’s Public Services Complex on 9th Avenue, NE in the Amount of $93,000.00. To expedite a timely closing, City staff is requesting two readings on August 17, 2010. Council Unanimously approved.
2. Recommendation by the Business Development Committee on Selection of Branding and Marketing Consultant - The Business Development Committee interviewed four (4) firms to develop a comprehensive branding and marketing campaign. City Council will have final acceptance authority of the consultant’s work and will be periodically engaged throughout the project. The branding and marketing initiative will focus on population growth through the recruitment of active adults, “live anywhere” professionals and entrepreneurs. The key elements of focus will be research, elements in delivering the message, development of strategies and tactical plans, working with portal development team and defining how the core message will be expanded to the EDC and CVB initiatives.
Alan Jackson addressed the Council. The recommendation is NorthStar out of Nashville, Tennessee. The committee wants NorthStar toassist the BDC to perform research about who we are as a community and how do we brand ourselves, what the current vision of Hickory is, and how do we work with that vision, how do we communicate and craft a strategy to better communicate that message out to the rest of the world; looking at residents and businesses looking to move here. Research will be important to recommend what we ought to be doing and coming up with strategies and being a key advocate with those strategies moving forward. North Star came in with case studies of cities very similar to Hickory where they performed outstanding work and displayed outstanding ideas. This process is just the first phase. This is going to be an ongoing process. Alan said that the BDC will be coming back before the Council. They need not only a commitment from City Council to work with this firm and get this firm under contract, but also a commitment to be available and open when the BDC comes back and says we are ready to take some of the recommendations they have brought to us and move forward and do this. Otherwise, this is just going to be a process that is going to stop and it’s not going to help us at all. It’s just going to be a novelty sitting on a shelf.
Alderman Lail asked Alan about mentioning 4 months and if that was a working timeframe. Alan stated that is the best estimates they have been told. The process involves surveys, interviews with key figures, and city staff. The firm also understands about the proposed portal website and they will be a partner on that. Alderman Lail asked about middle of Winter-Early Spring they will come back to Council with the costs and that will fit in good with the budget cycle. Alan concurred and stated that several of those items are going to be, we need to do this or we need to do that. They don’t know what those steps will be. Attorney Crone asked if they were going to have a Contract Phase 1 to bring back to Council? Alan concurred. Council Unanimously Consented.
The Hound is glad to see this moving forward. In personally knowing Alan, he is an digester and assimilator of information. Anytime he has been in a forum or roundtable where I have been present, he focuses on what you say and then he makes pointed and relevant statements or asks questions that get to the heart of the matter. He never tries to control the discussion. I think he enjoys the whirlwind of information as much as I do. It tends to make one a more well rounded person and I most definitely believe it leads one to better solutions for problems. I believe he is an anti-ego type of leader. I hope that the City will give Alan the room that he needs to operate and the authority to move forward with the proposals he and this group shepherd.
Recognition of Persons Requesting To Be Heard
Mr. Dent Allison requests to speak regarding the screening of outdoor storage – Mr. Allison is the President and owner of Shook Builder Supply. A Hickory business, in business for 63 years. Currently they employee 25 people, down from 70. They have paid over $1 million in real estate taxes and tens of millions in sales taxes. He is before Council to appeal the outdoor screening ordinance as it relates to his business. Presently his company is not in compliance, but they have worked hard to modify the ordinance by reducing the scope of major and minor thoroughfares. There is an appeal process through the planning department. However, the ordinance is still a burden to Shook Builder Supply.
They are required to put up a 6 foot by 200 foot portion of opaque material along their fence (to hide materials). They cannot put up trees or other natural barriers due to asphalt paving on the property, nor vinyl slats due to the fences age. They are a retail/wholesale business that needs roadside exposure (visibility) in order to sell their product. Their customers need and appreciate the ability to see this merchandise. If the opaque material goes up in September, this will negatively impact 7% of the business’s sales. He states that he cannot withstand that loss.
His competitors, Lowe’s and Home Depot, have products on display and are held to lower screening standards, because they are part of a planned commercial development, which negotiated lower standards with the city – this was from Mr. Brian Frazier, Director of the Planning Department. So these lower standards are working against local businesses to the benefit of out of town competitors. He stated (the obvious in the Hound’s opinion) about this not being fair.
He then went on to reiterate that they are a building supply and they have a great deal of lumber, which is combustible and also flammable liquids like diesel and gasoline. Shook has been broken into three times in the last 14 months, all three times police officers have stated that they need to have an unobstructed view into the yard. The Police Department’s "Crime Prevention through environmental design report" recommends the removal of all material from exterior fence lines to create more natural surveillance. Mr. Allison stated that this would have to apply to the opaque material. Similar comments have been made by his insurance agents. By enforcing the usage of this material the city would only be making a bad situation worse.
In Summary, he is asking the City Council to direct the Planning Department to exempt Shook Builder Supply from the outdoor storage ordinance, which he is allowed to do. Mr. Allison stated that this would be the only common sense and clear thing to do. This is purely cosmetic, he is worried about arson, and they are fighting for their life. Sales will be hurt. They aren’t a junk yard. They aren’t a truck wrecking service. They are a building supply. His products need to be seen. Lowe’s and Home Depot have lower standards. They are penalizing local businesses and driving them out of business.
Alderman Meisner asked what is seen through the business's fence? Mr. Allison stated treated lumber and building supplies. And he is stating that he is being penalized for transacting business and national chains are not. Mr. Allison stated that they are driving them out of business. He understand the city’s desire for beautification, but we are 2 ½ years into the worst recession we have ever experienced. We are fighting for our lives. Lastly he showed the stack of documents pertaining to the ordinance document and stated that the law was poorly written in 2004, the land development board worked on it, the Chamber of Commerce worked on it… It’s not fair. It’s not professional, especially in these times.
The Hound thinks everyone knows his stand on this issue. Harry Hipps stated it during his efforts in running for Council. This business sells materials that need to be seen. That is common sense. It is also a fact that this property should have been grandfathered into this ordinance. They basically sit on a concrete slab up against Sandy Ridge Road on a piece of property designed in the 1940s that used to be a dirt road and I believe it wasn’t incorporated into the city until the 1960s or 1970s.
I do think that Mr. Allison does himself harm by not being engaged with the public on issues. I won’t get into specifics, but a couple of times when I have tried to converse with him in the past, he told me that he didn’t have time for me. He needs to think about that and analyze that. Especially, where was this type of defense three years ago. I think he could have nipped this in the bud then by coming forth and shouting to the roof tops on WHKY (Hal Row’s show) and the Hickory Daily Record. Did he think people were just going to read his mind or eventually come around to his way of thinking?
I’m on Mr. Allison’s side. I understand the plight of small business, especially his business and the lack of building taking place due to the Real Estate Depression. He makes several pointed and valid arguments above. I don’t agree with him on the “woe is me” versus big bad Home Depot and Lowe’s argument. Those establishments are following code. They don’t have visible materials other than seasonal items and storage buildings in their parking lots. That is as much common sense as what Mr. Allison has brought to the table. I think that Council, Staff, and the Planning Department need to get past this “Policy Wonk” stuff.
We all understand the desire for the city to not look like a run down dump. I think there are bigger fish to fry involving those ideals. Let’s reassess priorities and work with the people of this community to fulfill the potential for economic growth, progress, and viability of the community and then the rest of this stuff will eventually take care of itself.
Alderman Seaver mentioned the upcoming Kenworth Neighborhood block Party set for September 16th and also mentioned the Ensure Classic at Rock Barn September 27th – October 3rd..
Alder Fox mentioned the idea of the Rental registry and when it will be addressed. manager Berry stated that there will be a workshop next week – no date was mentioned..