HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Commissioners and residents in Huntersville say they feel misled after the final plans for a major downtown development project do not match what they say they voted for.
According to a motion voted upon by Huntersville commissioners in Jan. 2021, the North State project, developed by North State LLC, would include 134 apartments, 41 townhomes, and 12,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on the ground floor. However, the final plans, approved in Aug. 2022, only include 7,500 sq. ft. of commercial space.
Town employees say the discrepancy stems from semantics.
Town Planning Director Jack Simoneau said while commissioners specifically mentioned 12,000 square feet of “commercial” space in their motion for approval, they also approved the rezoning plan, which refers to said commercial space as “non-residential space.” According to Simoneau, “non-residential space” can include other uses besides retail: maintenance rooms, electrical rooms, elevators, etc.
“From where I sit, I would have voted no,” said current Mayor Melinda Bales at Monday’s board meeting.
“I voted for 12,000 square feet of commercial space,” said Commissioner Lance Munger.
Munger and Bales were two of the three votes that passed the project last year.
This discrepancy in the language knocked down the 12,000 square feet of “non-residential space” to include only 7,500 square feet of actual commercial space. The rest is being used for non-commercial purposes.
“I think that this was a significant change. I think there should have been another public meeting about it. I think that there should have been another vote,” said Huntersville Resident Elaine Kerns.
Kerns helped start the “Save Downtown Huntersville” group, which stemmed from this specific project. Their goal is to advocate for more commercial development in downtown Huntersville rather than residential.
“This project has been a huge controversy from the very beginning, and to have even less commercial space than agreed upon is extremely disappointing,” said Kerns. “We have plenty of apartments. There will be plenty of apartments coming, but without the retail/commercial, we’re not going to get the revitalization that we want. We’re just going to get a bunch of traffic and the other problems that come with that.”
Simoneau says the town consulted former commissioner Nick Walsh, who made the initial motion to approve the project, and the town’s planning board before making the final approval. He says his purpose in contacting them was to clarify that the final plan for the project was what they had in mind when voting last year. According to him, Walsh and the planners agreed.
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When asked what recourse the town has to resolve this issue, Simoneau said the project is a done deal and that they could use this situation as a “lesson learned” moving forward. Unfortunately, that’s not good enough for those fighting to revitalize downtown Huntersville with more retail space.
“It’s just such a big project that will change the face of downtown Huntersville, and for us, it’s just not acceptable to say, ‘oh well, we learned a lesson,’” said Kerns.
Queen City News reached out to North State LLC for a comment on the project’s dissatisfaction. We did not get a response.
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