Red Cross council member confronts mayor regarding 250-home subdivision

Published 2:41 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023

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A proposed 250-home housing development in the Red Cross area elicited a tense exchange between the mayor and a council member at Monday’s meeting.

Councilman Andrew Smith, referring to a July 2021 public hearing conducted by the council, cited a published article and comments made by the mayor about the advertising of the meeting.

“Mr. Mayor, (what) you responded to them with was that you assured them it had been adequately announced from a legal perspective,” Smith said. “It looks like in the records from The Stanly News & Press that new notifications, actually one of them, was not within the 10 to 25 days recommendation. I’m just curious, is there a reason why you assured them then that it was done correctly when in fact it wasn’t?”

“That just leads back to the other information you’ve got regarding our previous zoning officer,” Mayor Kelly Brattain said, referring to Michael Sandy.

“It was told that everything was in order and we were ready to go,” Brattain said. “He would have been the one to put (the notice) in.”

Smith mentioned another comment by Brattain that he “assured that the planning board had done thorough research on the local effects that the subdivision would have.” He further asked which planning board member did the research and what it was.

The mayor said he was not on the planning board at the time, again referring to Sandy saying, “Michael was driving that car also.”

Smith expressed concern about the dismissal of community concerns voiced about the subdivision, adding their concerns “were put to the side in favor of a non-citizen businessman.”

He further said he wanted to give the mayor a chance to apologize to citizens in attendance at the meeting “for giving that wrong information and turning down their concerns.”

“At that point, to be honest with you, I was going on what I was told. I don’t get to vote; the board votes,” Brattain said.

He said the town’s current planning and zoning officer, former Oakboro town commissioner Mike Efird, is paid to “tell me what we need to do and how it needs to be done.”

“Again, to the town, if they want to lay it all on me, I apologize to you, but it wasn’t just me. I was going on the information I had,” Brattain said.

Earlier in the meeting, Efird said the town’s previous motion to approve the subdivision was “for whatever reason, flawed in the approval process.”

Efird said the board approved the subdivision but “did not get the information they needed to approve the subdivision like it should have been.”

Efird said recommendations from town attorneys Jim Phillips and Albert Benshoff are for a public hearing at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at town hall. The topic will be for a proposed development agreement between the town and Joseph Burleson for the subdivision on Hatley Burris Road.

Efird said a development agreement is a contract that would have the terms and conditions for the proposed subdivision.

He added a “critical statement” was left out “by absolute mistake” of letters sent to Red Cross residents about the subdivision hearing, which was originally scheduled for Monday’s meeting.

Seven residents spoke out against the subdivision during the public comments, noting concerns ranging from communications problems between citizens and the town to specific concerns about the subdivision.

Heather Britt, who was named as an alternate to the town’s planning board, said the town needs more research on the environmental impact of the subdivision.

Jamie Causey, a resident of Hilltop Road, said she moved to Red Cross “for the cows, not for Starbucks.”

After their comments, council member Lisa Lowder apologized to the citizens, although the actions happened, she noted, before she was on the town council.

Smith, in his comments, encouraged citizens to attend the special meeting Aug. 29.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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