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Lincoln Herald | Lincolnton, NC

home : news : news June 24, 2022

4/27/2022 2:56:00 AM
"Public opinion doesn't matter!"
According to the attorney for the developer, if the rezoning is approved, the new apartments on NC27 near Home Place restaurant would be similar to those at Palisades Apartments on Buffalo Shoals Road.
According to the attorney for the developer, if the rezoning is approved, the new apartments on NC27 near Home Place restaurant would be similar to those at Palisades Apartments on Buffalo Shoals Road.
The proposed apartments, according to the developer, would not be subsidized housing.
The proposed apartments, according to the developer, would not be subsidized housing.

Wayne Howard

"Public opinion doesn't matter!" 

It's a statement heard after the Lincolnton City Council approved a rezoning request at its March meeting that will allow a developer to add more homes to a project that had already been approved last Fall.  

The Council chambers were packed for a public hearing on that request and almost all of those who spoke were vehemently against the project.  Following the hearing, the Council approved the rezoning on a split vote.  

A public hearing on another project in the same area was originally on the City Council agenda for April, but it was postponed.

Mayor Ed Hatley broke a 2-2 tie after Council members Roby Jetton and Mary Frances White voted to reject the request.  Christine Poinsette and Marty Eaddy voted in favor of approval.  Hatley told us later he voted in favor of it because he thought it was in the best interest of Lincolnton.

Lincolnton, Lincoln County, and most other counties in our area are at a crossroads.  On the one hand, many of those who live here want to keep things as they are favoring a small town or rural lifestyle.  On the other hand, there is a critical need for additional housing.  That need is prompting developers, who see an opportunity to make money, to build new homes at a staggering pace.  

"Anywhere but here..."

The quandry is a bit like the arguments that have often occurred in the past over projects like landfills or solar farms.  Most of those who oppose them understand they are needed--but don't want them in their neighborhood.

Does public opinion matter?

Yes, but only so much.  The decision on the rezoning requests for projects like those being proposed just west of Lincolnton are ultimately up to the Lincoln County Commissioners.  It's important to understand that they are limited in their authority to 'just say no.'  

North Carolina law favors free enterprise (capitalism, if you will).  To disapprove a property owner's right to use his/her property as he/she see fit, Commissioners must have more than just public opinion as a reason. 

While Tuesday night's community meeting involved a plethora of statements against the project, the decision must be made based on evidence--not opinion.  The developer will present a traffic study and while the project may increase traffic, unless it oversteps Department of Transportation guidelines, road improvements may not be required unless the developer voluntarily agrees to them.  

Some at the meeting said building the proposed apartments would cause their property values to decline.  As opinion, that may or may not be true, but when Commissioners hold a public hearing on the proposed project at their June 6th meeting, they'll need evidence--such as expert testimony from a qualified appraiser--that shows similar developments caused a decline in nearby property values in other cases.  

Many of those who attended the Tuesday night session had seen a Facebook post stating falsely that the proposed project would be low-rent public housing and that Lincoln County residents wouldn't qualify for it.  Even after the attorney for the developer stated that "this is not Section 8 housing," and that contrary to that post, no grant for public housing was involved, one woman left her seat and went onto the gym floor to state again the false information in the Facebook post.  

In truth, any owner of housing--single family homes including mobile homes, apartments, etc.--can accept (if they choose) tenants who receive housing assistance.  In such cases, any legal US resident (citizens and legal immigrants) must be accepted.  Many property owners choose not to accept such tenants for various reasons including that accepting them opens the door for requirements the property owner must meet including certain levels of maintenance.  

As the crowd was leaving the meeting Tuesday night, one woman spoke to a friend asking "how can we stop this?"  One way is obviously to buy the land where the project is proposed; then how to develop it--if at all--will be up to the new owner...subject, of course, to zoning regulations, etc.

"If it can be changed, what's the use of having zoning?"

Zoning is for Lincoln County a relatively new concept.  Except for the city of Lincolnton, zoning didn't exist in Lincoln County until the 1990s.  Land use plans and zoning are not permanent.  Some believe they should be, but that is not currently state law.  Lincoln County Commissioners turned down a rezoning request in eastern Lincoln County for a solar farm--and the property owner took them to court and the court reversed that decision.  Property owners who are not allowed to develop their property as they see fit can go to court, and can--if their decision causes the property owner to lose money--sue Commissioners personally for damages.  

"Public opinion only goes so far."

Lincoln County Commissioners recently  approved a request that will allow a second dollar store on Smokey Dan Kennel Road at NC10 in far western Lincoln County despite an 8-0 recommendation against approval by the Planning Board.  Commissioners approved that request on a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Bud Cesena and Cathy Davis voting 'no.'  At the public hearing in early March, the majority of those speaking opposed the project.  

"it's happening all over."

New housing developments are being proposed and built in most area counties to meet a need for more housing and based on market conditions that offer developers a chance to make money.  Because of the huge increase in the price of homes, the need for more rental housing is increasing dramatically.  The average price of a home nationwide is now over $350,000.  Purchases of existing homes is now over 50% by national corporations who see the opportunity to profit by buying them and turning them into rental properties.   Eastern Lincoln County has seen multiple developments in recent years.  Lincolnton's approval of that project off Startown Road came in the same month that the Hickory City Council approved a project on North Center Street in that city despite protests by area residents.  

On Thursday evening (March 28th) another community meeting, also at Lincoln Charter School, will provide details about a request by Garden Street Communities Southeast, LLC, to rezone a 72.9-acre tract from R-SF (Residential Single-Family) to PD-R (Planned Development-Residential) to permit a subdivision with up to 75 single-family detached homes. That property is located on the south side of NC182 at Gainsville Church Road in Howards Creek Township. That meeting will also begin at 6:30 PM.

The public hearing on both of the requests involving community meetings this week will be held June 6th at the Citizens Center in Lincolnton.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2022
Article comment by: Jeannine Harczuk

Someone is getting paid off really well, to build this right by the school is INSANE! They need to go sit by the school when they get out and watch what the police officer has to go thru, It's CRAZY! and how long we have to wait to get thru now you want to add more to that traffic is CRAZY! Here we are " We the People" don't have a say. This has been a done deal under the table from day 1, For all who voted should be liable for all accidents that will happen. Build this near where you live and you deal with it! SHAME ON YOU!

Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Article comment by: Joshua Peeler

I believe it is important to mention the stipulations of rezoning request and add to your comments for law suits. The county is obligated to uphold their adopted ordinance i.e the approved UDO and as a land owner they have the right to pursue a rezoning on their property but it is not a guaranteed approval. The property in question on the apartment complex is not owned by this developer and is contingent on a successful rezoning. In theory at the moment he has no rights to the property as he is not the legal property owner. The property is however already zoned B-N for neighborhood business and by right the land owner has the option to develop the property according to the allowed uses for this zoning listed in the UDO and there is not objection to that (use does not include apartment or multi-family in B-N zoning). The land use plan was adopted by the county commissioners in 2018 that define a few surrounding properties along with the property in question as suburban commercial. Suburban commercial is to protect the residential community around it and does not include multi-family use within a suburban zoning unless by special use permit. If approved, the land use plan would be amended based on the precedence and could ultimately allow more apartments in an area that should be protected as suburban for families and people that desire to live outside on a high density area. Article 2 has uses listed for each district and article 9 lays out a special use definition. It is important to note that the BOC does hold the decision in their hands to evaluate a project based on the project type being proposed and the setting and location. There is also concern of public safety with traffic that has not been addressed by the state and insufficient capacities in utilities that have not been verified by either county, city or developer.

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