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City discusses business center

At Monday’s meeting of the Albemarle City Council, the board explored and discussed pros and cons of infrastructure planning options at the Albemarle Business Center site.

City Economic Development Director Mark Donham presented a summary of four options, two of which would provide for development of a through road from East Albemarle to U.S. Highway 52 Business near Trinity Oaks Nursing Center.

The two remaining options would call for partial development of the road, utilizing a single entrance.

A through street with a redundant utility supply (utility access from both sides of the facility) is a key consideration for attracting businesses, according to Donham.

“A redundant power and water supply will provide a higher likelihood of success in attracting business,” he said, using the example of how a sprinkler system activation in a business could drain the water supply from other businesses if water were only available from one source.

All options listed estimates of development costs, but actual costs would likely be lower, Mayor Ronnie Michael said.

“These estimates are based on construction and installation done by a contractor,” he said. “If some of these tasks are done in-house, it will reduce the development costs.”

Michael also reminded council members that moving ahead with one of the options would not commit the city to move immediately into construction.

“All we would be doing is giving the engineer the authority to begin work on securing bids,” said Michael.

Councilman Chris Bramlett re-stated his concerns, which he originally voiced at the group’s Feb. 3 meeting, that committing financially to the project now could stress the city’s budget and possibly hinder future projects.

“I talk to lots of people, and I get lots of the same questions,” said Bramlett. “If we go ahead with this and an unexpected expense comes long, or if another needed project comes up, will this tie us up?”

Bramlett also stated that a number of recent articles suggest that the traditional economic development model — which includes development of facilities such as business centers and industrial parks — does not work for rural communities.

“Whether or not we admit it, we are a rural community,” said Bramlett, “and I’m concerned about what this could do to us.”

“There are lots of rural areas in the state, some of which are not doing too well. But we are doing well,” countered Donham, who noted Albemarle’s location in the center of the state with easy access to airports in Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh would create an advantage in recruiting businesses.

“We have to get the infrastructure out there before anything else can happen,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall, “and we would be moving ahead with planning, not tying ourselves to anything yet.”

Councilman Chris Whitley, who represents Albemarle on the Rocky River Rural Planning Organization, said the group will consider the construction of the road through the park as one of its projects when it meets on March 19, even though results will not be immediately known.

“It will take a year to see how the project scores, and how it ranks among all the other proposals in the region,” he said.

Hall moved, seconded by Councilman Bill Aldridge, to authorize moving forward with preparation of bid documents on Option 4, which would request bids for development of roads entering the park from Henson Street, Leonard Avenue and U.S. 52 Business. The motion passed by a 5-2 vote, with Bramlett and Councilman Dexter Townsend opposed.

In other action, council members:

● Heard information on the Police Department’s accreditation process;

● Received an update from Waste Management on recycling participation in the city;

● Considered participation in a School Resource Officer grant with Stanly County Schools;

● Received an update on various development projects in the city;

● Received an update on two minimum housing code violations;

● Received an update on the Public Housing Department’s Five-Year Agency Plan; and

● Awarded a bid for door replacement at Public Housing facilities.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.