Albemarle Council approves text, map amendments

Published 9:09 am Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Following a lengthy public hearing on Monday, Albemarle City Council passed a five-part text amendment to City Ordinance 24-16.
Although the entire text amendment package addressed minimum design standards, requirements for buffers, landscaping and paving, sidewalks and pedestrian amenities, and structures on undeveloped lots, it was the establishment of a “Special Environs Overlay District” in the City Lake Park area which drew nearly all of the public commentary.
Planning and Development Services Director Kevin Robinson presented the proposed amendments and explained the reason for proposing the overlay district.
“A zoning overlay district addresses a specific area,” he explained, noting that simply changing existing zoning regulations would apply citywide, and that conditional zoning regulations are difficult to develop and implement.
“Approximately 93% of North Carolina cities our size utilize overlay districts,” Robinson added, noting that two overlay districts (the downtown historical district and the Northeast Connector district) already exist in Albemarle.
Most speaking in opposition expressed concern over restrictions the district would place on properties they currently own.
Michael Green of Pennington Road spoke on behalf of himself and two neighbors, expressing concerns over perceived loss of control over their properties.
“We just want to use our property and be good stewards of it,” he said, “but we don’t want to have any regulations…nothing against City Council, but I live in the county.”
Bob Baker, representing the Stanly County Shrine Club, expressed similar concerns.
“We’re totally opposed to anybody being able to restrict us from doing anything we want to do on our property,” he said.
Christina Stickley, a representative of NC City Watch who was in attendance, delivered a number of signed form letters to Council that she said she had received in opposition to the amendment.
Marla Chavis of Ameron Circle asked about a postcard residents in the area had received regarding potential effects should the overlay district be enacted.
“I reached out to Kevin and asked, ‘Where did all this transpire, why are we at this point?’ ” She identified the postcard as having been sent from a post office box in Matthews.
Julie Curtis spoke in support of the overlay district, and provided insight on the postcard that Chavis referenced.
“I would love to address the question about this ‘mystery postcard,’ ” said Curtis, adding, “North Carolina City Watch is responsible (for the postcard),” further noting that the “post office box belongs to a developer from Monroe.”
“This particular person owns an 85-acre tract of land which you are very familiar with, and has tried and failed three times to get it annexed. His plan is to scare everyone who could be affected by this into pressuring you all (Council) to vote no,” Curtis said.
Albemarle residents Kevin Farmer and Laura Krug both joined Curtis in expressing support of the overlay district, citing the protections its implementation would afford the lake and surrounding area.
“City Lake is a jewel,” said Krug, “and we need these guidelines to preserve it.”
Carla Weyrick also expressed support, mentioning that the proposal comes after “extensive research and community engagement.”
Upon vote, council members passed the amendment 6-1, with Councilman Chris Bramlett voting in opposition based on the “complicated language” of the ordinance.
“It seems to me to be a gross overreaction to whatever is happening,” he stated.
After a subsequent public hearing on a proposed map amendment to rezone parcels at the corner of Montgomery Avenue and North Second Street drew no public comment, Council unanimously approved rezoning of the parcels to R-4 (Traditional Neighborhood Design District).
Plans are to redevelop the former Sinclair Service Station and the former A&P Grocery (currently occupied by the Stanly Arts Guild), and to construct senior apartments between the Sinclair building and the current Stanly County Senior Center.
In other matters, City Council:
• Received an update from Lee Snuggs of the Rocky River RPO and David Castillo of NCDOT on the RPO’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
• Reviewed the city’s Capital Improvement Plan.
• Made appointments to various city boards and commissions.
• Gave permission for the Uwharrie Wampus Cats to conduct a fireworks display following the team’s July 3 game.
• Conducted a closed session for the purpose of discussing real estate and personnel.
Council will next meet on July 8.

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