Red Cross residents, officials differ over town center plans

The town of Red Cross has seen many changes over the years, but in recent times a plan has been developed for further development of the town.

Created in October of last year, a new town center master plan looks to develop the area for both residential and commercial purposes. Recently, debate online has created conversations between those for and against the plan.

The plan stretches behind the West Stanly High School baseball and softball fields, going east of the school up to the corner of N.C. Highway 24-27 and N.C. Highway 205.

In terms of the town center, the plans call for 17 commercial or mixed-use buildings, with first floor buildings being used for shops and restaurants, and apartments on the second floor. Other buildings planned are a museum, a bed and breakfast, new town hall facilities, a medical/urgent care facility and a grocery store.

On the residential side, the new plan could have 62 single-family homes on 100- by 200-foot lots, costing from $350,000 to $550,000, 46 family homes on 50- by 120-foot lots costing between $250,000 and $450,000, 55 single-family homes on 40- by 100-foot lots for between $200,000 and $400,000, and 64 townhouses ranging from $150,000 to $250,000. Parking for both the residences and commercial businesses are also included in the plan.

Red Cross’ master plan also calls for a town park, with a pond for fishing, an outdoor amphitheater with restrooms and concessions, walking trails and an 18-hole disc golf course.

The construction of the town center would come in three phases, which combined would be between 20 and 25 years. The first phase, estimated to cost $3.3 million, includes acquiring land, and $2.3 million for infrastructure, including the extension of public utilities, access roads and a traffic circle and stormwater management/pond renovations.

The second phase, costing $1.4 million, would include $750,000 for amenities in the plaza. Finally, the third phase, the most expensive at $7.1 million, would include construction of the public park, greenways and new town hall, along with a war memorial.

Red Cross would be responsible for water and sewer extensions to the town center, along with construction of a primary access road from Oak Ridge to the traffic circle.

At the April meeting of the town council, several members of the community spoke out against the plan.

Mayor Kelly Brattain, during the public comments portion of the meeting, said the plans were “a stepping stone, an outline” for what could happen.

“It’s just what we visualized is possibly what this will look like in the future,” Brattain said. “I think we’re more proactive than reactive.”

The mayor mentioned a meeting hosted at a church in Red Cross where citizens were allowed to give their input on the plans.

The town, he mentioned, only owned a small portion of the land in the plan.

When asked about leaving the town as it is, Brattain said “we tried to get ahead of the curve because we know (growth) is coming. You can say what you want to about growth. Growth is going to happen. You’ve got to be able to have something in place that you can somewhat control your growth.”

Town planning manager Michael Sandy said when the town was incorporated in 2002 the council at the time put forth a land use plan which also called for a town center.

Andrew Smith, a resident who has been outspoken against the town center plan, asked the mayor how much resistance did the council need to see in order to reconsider the plan.

Brattain said he did not see resistance, adding the public had given input previously.

Town Administrator Aloma Whitley said previous letters on other subjects about the town had not received a great deal of response, and it was the same with a letter about the town center.

“I think there was an understanding between the citizens of Red Cross since 2002 that one of our goals was to stay small,” Smith said. “When people don’t come to meetings, they are trusting that is still the case…I think there are still people that are surprised to find out that we’re pursing such a massive plan.”

Board member Melvin Poole said people may not have responded about the plan until an actual picture of the plan was available for people to see. Recently, Poole said, the photo of the plan was posted on social media.

“It’s a 20- to 30-year vision, and that doesn’t mean it’s going to come to pass,” Poole said, noting the area would not be getting sewer from the county for at least three to five years.

Concerns from the community also came up about the size of acreage per family home, and what a developer might do were they able to purchase property for residential development.

The council decided to mail information on the town center plan to receive input from citizens on it.