By Stan Welch
The Williamston Town Council began its usual pre-meeting work session by amending the terms of its contract with Hunter Quinn Houses, the developer of the proposed Brock Lane project. The vote to amend was held in order to comply with the planning commission’s decision to rezone the property to planned development. The final vote to rezone will also be held Monday night. The planned development designation will allow the developer more leeway in shifting home sites closer to or further away than the required setbacks.
The uncertainty about the topography is causing some concern. “They might get into some rock or other unusual terrain. This new zoning will just give them some flexibility,” said Mayor Rockey Burgess. The unusual vote during a work session will enable the developer to proceed as soon as the rezoning is formally approved, according to Burgess.
Burgess also announced that disparate parts of the project, which will involve construction of sixty homes , have now been designated Saratoga Villages and Saratoga Oaks. One segment will target an older demographic, empty nesters as Burgess described them. The other half of the project will accommodate those families that still have children. Councilman Lee Cole recused himself from the vote and the discussion, citing a financial interest . He would recuse himself twice more during the evening as property transactions and issues arose.
Burgess then worked through a series of several ordinances and other matters that will be on the agenda for second and final reading. Among those are the zoning issue mentioned above; the sale of a piece of property on Rector Road in the Cheddar community for sixty five thousand dollars; and an amendment to the town’s purchasing policy, to allow for a grievance/protest procedure. A proposal to add two at large members to the planning commission will also be taken up Monday night. The proposal will increase the commission from five members to seven.
Another zoning matter, establishing an R7 designation is slated for a second reading. It essentially allows for a smaller size lot than the existing R3 designation, which will also be retained.
The sale of property owned by the town was a recurrent theme throughout the session. A lot at 105 West Second Street, donated to the town by the Ellis Family, attracted an offer of $8000. Before any action could be taken, an unsolicited offer of $10,000 was received. The mayor contacted the first bidder who matched the latest bid. Burgess executed the contract contingent on the Council’s approval. the Council approved. First reading of that ordinance will take place Monday night.
The sale of a small parcel of land to the All About Fabrics company will also be up for approval. The .77 acre tract is a triangular shaped, awkward location that was thought to be owned by All About Fabrics. Upon learning differently, Burgess approached the company’s representative who agreed to pay five thousand dollars for the lot.
Burgess then touched on the town’s financial audit, saying that even with some pay raises, the town had managed to put $339,000 into the reserve fund. He also expressed amazement that the town had collected $285,000 in hospitality tax moneys, a figure he said reflected twelve million dollars in money sent dining out at the town’s various eateries. And that was after we suspended the tax for an entire quarter during the pandemic,” said Burgess.
He also raised the issue of the American Relief Plan (ARP) funds that the town should receive fairly soon. Anticipating a total of $1.6 million in federal funds, Burgess outlined a three pronged program to upgrade the town’s water and sewer systems. An $800,000 project to replace and improve a main line, plus the purchase of 300,000 gallons in daily capacity from the county for $300,000 would leave the town approximately a half million to address the antiquated water lines on the mill hill.
“I am hopeful that we might be able to use that money to leverage the total amount, which is about double that, so that we can address these infrastructure issues. We have kicked water and sewer issues down the road for far too long. It may not be sexy or popular, but it is the best and smartest use of this money. Williamston is starting to grow and these systems are essential to that growth.”
By Stan Welch