Council approves zoning requests and renaming of fire department
The Rutherfordton Town Council held three public hearings concerning recommendations from the Planning and Zoning Board during the regular meeting on Wednesday night at the Rutherfordton Town Hall.
The first recommendation is to correct an error concerning the classification of duplexes that was recorded in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Table of Permissible Uses. Correcting the error will show that duplexes are a permitted use in the R-2 Zoning District (a multi-family, residential district).
The second recommendation is to amend the UDO definition of "tower" to allow wireless and cellular antennas to be placed on top of utility poles downtown.
The third recommendation is to amend the UDO Permissible Uses for Central Business District Apartments and adopt a corresponding new supplementary use regulation to permit a downtown residence to exist on the main level of a business, so long as it is behind the store portion of the building and it is single-family, property owner occupied.
The only comments during the public hearings concerned the third request. The recent purchaser of a downtown building, located at 116 West Court Street, shared his intention to open a coffee roastery and espresso bar specializing in coffees from around the world, and turn the back of the business into a residence.
The purchaser hopes by allowing a downtown residence to exist on the main level of a business, it will help promote sustainability by bringing residents and businesses together and potentially help cut costs for new businesses in the future.
A current downtown business owner expressed her concern and said she thought this was a unique case that could be permitted, however, she did not want to see first-floor apartments all over downtown.
After discussion by council members following the public hearings, the three separate recommendations were accepted.
Council members continued new business with a consensus to rename the Rutherfordton Fire Department to the Rutherfordton Fire and Rescue Department.
"We've been performing rescue services for some time, but in December 2013 we got credentialed through the North Carolina Rescue and EMS Association as a medium rescue provider," said Fire Chief Tommy Blanton prior to Wednesday's meeting. "And to make that official, and the fact that we are performing those rescue services in our district, we are renaming the fire department."
In other new business, the council approved the purchase of cemetery plots from a family no longer wishing to own the plots. The town purchased the parcel for $40, the same amount for which it was sold to the family in the 1950s.
Council members also discussed potential involvement in the North Carolina City/County Management Association's commemorative book to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The council voted to spend $25 on an ad honoring Town Manager Karen Andrews that will appear in the book.
The council continued new business with a discussion on setting a "test" neighborhood for once every two weeks for recycling and garbage collection.
Public Works Director Keith Ward advised that his staff estimates 80 percent of the town's cans are full every week.
"It's going to be difficult to analyze one part of the town and base it on the whole town," Ward said. "My recommendation is to purchase the larger recycling cans and move forward with the co-mingled recycling. If we did that, I would surely go every other week for recycling pickup."
Council member Christy Bare and Henry Giles commented that while collecting recycling every two weeks is feasible, weekly trash collection is a necessity.
"When it comes to recycling, we can look at every bit of data in the world but our biggest obstacle is education — getting people to recycle," Bare said.
Finishing new business, the council looked into scheduling a priorities session for FY 2014-15 and discussed future council representation on the STEP Steering Committee.
Possible acceptance of the N.C. Commerce agreement for the STEP implementation funds was moved to next month's agenda.
During their meeting, council members also recognized Betty and Norman Jenkins for donating Bechtler coins to the Town of Rutherfordton. The couple donated a $1 Bechtler gold coin during the town's 225th anniversary celebration and in December 2013 donated a $2.5 and a $5 Bechtler coin to the town.
"We felt like the town needed these denominations of Bechtler coins," Norman said.
The coins were donated with instructions to never be sold, so as current and future generations will be able to view them for years to come.
"This will be something people will be able to see that will help them learn about our town's history," said Mayor Jimmy Dancy. "We thank you for your contributions to Rutherfordton and to the Bechtler story."