PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2010, 7 P.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, N.C.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will hold public hearings on 1) a request to rezone 1.68 acres at 1052 Houston Mill Road in the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning District from R-20 Residential to RC Rural Commercial District and 2) a proposed Lake Norman Regional Bike Plan; and will consider the waiver of the County’s annual dog park permit fee, for one year, for each dog adopted through Catawba County Animal Services, when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, February 15, 2010 at the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board will also receive a report on the assistance being providing to small businesses by the community college and state university systems; and will consider appropriating $1.9 million, to be advanced from funds available for the Hickory Public Schools in the next four year construction cycle, to complete renovations at Hickory High School; a contract with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) for administration of a Community Based Youth Gang Violence Prevention and Gang Assessment Grant awarded by the State; and policies, procedures and plans, a project budget ordinance, and an administrative contract with the WPCOG for a 2010 Community Development Block Grant Infrastructure Hook-up Grant that will provide approximately 20 low to moderate income households with taps and connections to existing municipal water/sewer line(s) in Catawba County.
A. The Board will hold a public hearing and consider a request by Mr. Thomas Edwards to rezone a 1.68 acre parcel at 1052 Houston Mill Road from R-20 Residential to RC Rural Commercial District. Parcels to the north, west and south are zoned R-20 Residential and include both undeveloped parcels and parcels with single-family dwellings. One parcel to the east is owned by Mr. Edwards, is zoned HC Highway Commercial, and is the location of his towing service.
The Catawba County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), Section 44-417, states that the RC Rural Commercial district “provides small areas for offices, services, and retail uses, all designed in scale with surrounding residential uses. The district regulations are designed to protect and encourage the transitional character of the districts by permitting uses and building forms that are compatible with the rural areas of the County. This district establishes setback and area standards that are compatible with residential neighborhoods.”
The R-20 Residential district is considered to be a high-density residential and agricultural district. Permitted uses in the R-20 district consist predominately of site-built homes and agricultural uses, while also allowing duplexes.
Public water is available for the property, but public sewer is not available. The Hickory-Newton-Conover Urban Area Transportation Plan recognizes Houston Mill Road as a minor thoroughfare, which serve the purpose of collecting traffic from local access streets and carrying it to major thoroughfares. At this location, Houston Mill Road is a two-lane roadway. Traffic counts taken in 2007, approximately 1.25 miles east of the site, registered 3100 vehicles per day. No improvements are suggested for Houston Mill Road.
The St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Plan serves as the current land use plan for this area. Recommendations in the plan call for a maximum of 10 acres of rural commercial use in the vicinity of the intersection of Houston Mill Road and Lee Cline Road. There are currently 6.56 acres of commercial (rural and highway) property near the intersection. The inclusion of the subject parcel would bring the total amount of commercial property in the area to 8.24 acres.
The Catawba County Planning Board held a public hearing on this request on January 25, 2010. No one spoke in favor or opposition to the request. The Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend adoption of a statement acknowledging the consistency of the request with the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Plan and the rezoning of the property from R-20 Residential to RC Rural Commercial District, based on the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Plan recognizing the parcels as being in an area proposed for rural commercial development, the purpose of the RC Rural Commercial district; and the close proximity of existing RC Rural Commercial and Highway Commercial zoning districts.
B. The Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing and consider adopting a resolution of endorsement to the North Carolina Board of Transportation (NCDOT) regarding a proposed Lake Norman Regional Bicycle Plan. The concept for a bicycle route around Lake Norman began in 2003, recognizing that many cyclists have been riding bikes around the Lake for years. In 2005, the Centralina Council of Governments (COG) in Charlotte began a planning process to develop a more detailed on-road route. Catawba County planning staff participated in the development of this Plan, which resulted in a map connecting all four counties around the Lake. This Plan was endorsed by the Unifour Rural Planning Organization (Catawba County's rural transportation planning group) in late 2006. The Plan was forwarded to the NCDOT’s Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation group to be used as a planning tool when new road widening and construction projects were designed. This Plan was not approved by NCDOT because there were no State standards in place for a regional bicycle route.
In late 2007, the cycling commmunity lobbied the State to develop more and longer bicycle routes in North Carolina. Funds were appropriated to develop regional bicycle plans which would stimulate economic development and tourism opportunties. NCDOT approached the Centralina COG in 2008 to discuss reexamining the earlier Lake Norman Bike Route (LNBR) Plan. In early 2009, the Centralina COG began the planning process to conduct an expanded study for what will be the State’s first regional bicycle plan. The LNBR Plan was developed over the course of a year using input from a Steering Committee consisting of representatives from the four counties and six municipalities around the Lake. Catawba County was represented on the LNBR Plan Committee by Mary George, the County’s Assistant Planning Director and John Marshall, Unifour RPO Transportation Planner with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.
In determining the designated bicycle route, the Steering Committee looked at six factors: simplicity for users, safe routes, scenic viewsheds, off-road linkages, utility for transportation and/or recreation, and coordination with existing plans and future projects. The route was divided into 52 segments that were evaluated to define an initial route and an ultimate route. The initial route, including the segments that can be completed in the short-term, is 89 miles long with 3 miles of off-road trail segments. The ultimate route is an ideal route that will eventually be possible; 117 miles long with 16 miles of off-road segments. After designating the route, the Plan identified priorities for the route’s 52 segments based on nine variables such as safety, linking residents to destinations, demand, scenic view and cost-effectiveness.
Relative to Catawba County, the LNBR Plan identifies 15.6 miles of initial route and 32.3 miles of ultimate route, divided into 11 segments. The route is primarily planned for on-road facitilies. The County has begun development of its Carolina Thread Trail greenway master plan, however, which may lead to identification of off-road opportunities. These could be incorporated in the future once the Thread Trail plan is adopted. Of the 11 segments in the county, four ranked as a medium priority and seven as a low priority, primarily due to safety and the cost effectiveness of widening existing roads. Included in the Plan is a signature route for Catawba County, referred to as the “Catawba Run”, which traverses the western shore of Lake Norman from Hudson Chapel Road to Sherrills Ford Road and Slanting Bridge Road. This route connects to Iredell County and forms a north/northwest rural excursion around the Lake. The signature route will be highlighted in an LNBR brochure, and includes destinations and side excursions such as the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge and Murray’s Mill.
The LNBR Plan can be realized through coordination with NCDOT road projects. As roads are widened by NCDOT, paved shoulders or bicycle lanes could be installed. Similarly, as new roads are designed by NCDOT, the LNBR Plan will be reviewed and bicycle facilities will be provided. Segments of the bike plan could be submitted by local transportation agencies for inclusion in the State Transportation Improvement Plan. As new developments such as rezonings and subdivisions are approved locally, the approval process could include the provision of components of the LNBR Plan. Federal, State and private grants could be secured to construct segments of the LNBR.
In order to ensure the long-term integrity and implementation of the Plan, a Lake Norman Regional Bicycle Route Task Force has been proposed, and would be charged with reviewing amendments to the route, coordinating improvements, and approving requests for use of the route logo. Membership of the Task Force will include all affected governments (including Catawba County), transporation planning agencies and the NCDOT. The Centralina Council of Governments would be the support staff for the Task Force, at no cost to local governments.
The Catawba County Planning Board held a public hearing on the LNBR Plan at its January 25, 2010 meeting. No one spoke at the hearing. The Board discussed various issues relative to private property rights and trails. Since the LNBR is proposed to be located within public road rights-of-way in Catawba County, the Planning Board unanimously recommended the Plan to the Board of Commissioners.
The Board will hear a report from Mr. Bill Parrish, Director of the Appalachian State University Small Business and Technology Development Center and Ms. Bonnie Sweeting, Director of Catawba Valley Community College’s Small Business Center on the assistance being providing to small businesses by the community college and state university systems.
A. The Board will consider waiving the County’s annual dog park permit fee, for one-year, for each dog adopted through Animal Services in an effort to promote responsible pet ownership and encourage the adoption of dogs from Catawba County Animal Services. The dog park permit fee is currently $20 per year.
Catawba County’s dog parks at Riverbend and St. Stephens Parks provide a safe environment for dogs and their owners to exercise and play. Dogs and dog owners who use the parks benefit from being outdoors and from socialization and interaction with other dogs and people. If the Board approves the waiver of the permit fee, vouchers would be given to each person adopting a dog after he or she completes an adoption from Animal Services. The adoptee would present a validated voucher, completed dog park permit application and a copy of the required veterinarian records at either Riverbend or St Stephens Park, where an annual dog park permit would be issued. The permit would be valid for one year and subject to the established dog park rules. Adopted puppies would not be allowed to receive a permit until they are four months old and all vaccinations are completed. Permits associated with this program would not be eligible for a cash refund. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends waiving this fee for one year.
B. The Board will consider recording in its minutes approval by the Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils (JCPC) of a contract with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) to administer a Community Based Youth Gang Violence Prevention – Gang Assessment Grant received by the 25th Judicial District. At its October 5, 2009 meeting, the Board accepted the grant and agreed that Catawba County would serve as lead agent on the grant.
The State of North Carolina requested that the counties in the 25th Judicial District (Burke, Caldwell and Catawba) partner for a youth gang assessment. The JCPC was approved for a $54,500 grant to conduct the assessment with the understanding that, once the assessment was complete, it could apply for additional funding for prevention/intervention education. A JCPC committee made a recommendation to contract with the WPCOG after two non-profits responded with proposals to administer the assessment. The State has emphasized that the grant is funded with federal Recovery Act funding intended to either save jobs, retain workers or provide employment for displaced workers. The WPCOG has talked with a displaced worker who will be working for the COG. Since the grant will require some realignment of workload and enable the COG to hire a displaced worker to assist with workload, this meets the grant requirement even if that displaced worker is not directly working on this program. Work on the youth gang assessment began on February 1,2010 and is expected to be completed by September 30, 2010. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends that the action of the JCPC noted above be recorded in the Board’s minutes.
The Board will consider appropriating $1.9 million to complete renovations at Hickory High School. These funds would be advanced from the next four year funding cycle, to begin in fiscal year 2011-12. It is understood that this is the top building priority for Hickory Public Schools and no other major renovations will be needed for Hickory High School within the next four years. In fiscal year 2007-08, the Board set aside two cents of the property tax rate to finance school construction over a four-year period. The Hickory High School project was included in this construction cycle and included a complete replacement of the existing HVAC system; restoration of the ceiling, lights and electrical systems; removal of asbestos; and replacement of fire rated ceiling tiles and the roof on the building, which was built in 1970. Bids for the project were received in July 2008. An appropriation of $7,647,577 was approved by the Board and the work is almost complete. At that time, several bid alternates were not recommended for the current construction cycle unless another revenue source materialized.
In the summer of 2009, the Hickory Public Schools were allocated $2 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs) through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These bonds offer federal income tax credits to allow the issuance of these bonds interest-free to willing financial institutions. Hickory Public Schools then requested funding from the County to complete the Hickory High School project by funding bid alternates 2 and 3, which are the replacement of all windows, doors and exterior fascia panels along the outside of the school. These two projects would complete the conversion of Hickory High’s 1970 structure into an energy efficient structure for the 21st century.
In August 2009, the Board agreed to advance funds from the next construction cycle to complete the Hickory High School project. Bids for alternates 2 and 3 totaled $2.2 million in 2008. In September 2009, Hickory Public Schools negotiated with Hickory Construction Company, which was in the final stages of HVAC and roof replacement at the school and which agreed to complete alternates 2 and 3 for $1.68 million. Testing of the fascia panels showed they contain asbestos, which would add an additional cost of approximately $140,000 to remove and properly dispose. This, combined with a contingency of 4%, brings the total cost to complete the energy efficiency changes to the school to $1.9 million. Since the County is not able to issue the QSCBs until the spring of 2010 when Arndt Middle and County Home Middle School projects would be bid, Hickory Public Schools has agreed to transfer its $2 million QSCB allocation to Newton-Conover Schools, to be used for the new County Home Middle School so the County will not miss out on reduced borrowing costs afforded by the QSCBs. This transfer was approved by the N. C. Department of Public Instruction, and could save the County approximately $700,000 in interest. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends the appropriation of $1.9 million to the Hickory Public Schools, noted above, be approved.
B. UTILITIES AND ENGINEERING
The Board will consider adopting policies, procedures and plans for a 2010 Community Development Block Grant Infrastructure Hook-Up Grant, including a budget ordinance, a budget revision in the amount of $75,000, and an administrative contract with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.
On August 17, 2009, the Board held a required second public hearing on submission of a 2010 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Infrastructure Hook-up Grant application to the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Community Assistance. The Infrastructure Hook-up Program is designed to enable eligible local governments with existing public water and/or sewer lines to connect low to moderate-income households that previously may not have been able to afford to connect to lines. Low to moderate-income households are defined as households at 80% or less of the median family income for the county or Metropolitan Statistical Area in which the residence is located. CDBG funds may only be used to connect dwellings owned or occupied by low to moderate-income households, and dwellings occupied by low to moderate income tenants, provided the landlord also has low to moderate income. On January 19, 2010, the County received notification of a 2010 CDBG Infrastructure Hook-up grant in the amount of $75,000. The grant will provide approximately 20 low to moderate income households with taps and connections to existing municipal water/sewer line(s) in Catawba County. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the actions noted above for the 2010 CDBG Infrastructure Hook-Up Grant.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464