City leaders voted on a couple of items Monday night that looked toward a brighter future for the city.
First up in new business handled by the council was approval of a memorandum of understanding regarding some property near the old Broughton campus that is mostly owned by Western Piedmont Community College.
The section of the old Broughton property is under contract by Homes Urban Inc., a company based in Greenville, South Carolina, which has hopes to develop an apartment complex that would have up to 240 units and preserve the silos and barns that sit on the property, said City Attorney Louis Vinay.
One of the co-founders of Homes Urban, Russ Davis, told The News Herald in October that each apartment building will be three stories, with brick and siding likely to make up the outside of the complex. The complex will feature amenities like a swimming pool, fitness center, outdoor kitchen and a package center, and apartments will have features like wood floors and 9-foot ceilings.
Davis said the complex will be most like his company’s Verde Vista development in Asheville, which can be viewed at verdevistaliving.com.
The project will require significant sanitary and sewer infrastructure development, which led to Monday’s memorandum of understanding.
In the memorandum, the city agrees that it will design, engineer and construct a new sewer line to connect to the existing sewer main on Hunting Creek, but Homes Urban will pay the cost for that. Homes Urban will build sewer lines within the development and connect those to the city’s line, Vinay said.
He said approving the memorandum was necessary for Homes Urban to close on the purchase of the property, which should happen by December. Once the property is sold, it will become taxable property. It previously was nontaxable public property.
Council members also voted to increase the number of members on the Human Relations Commission.
The council agreed to add four members to the commission, drawing the total number of slots on it up to 16.
HRC Chairman Wayne Johnson Sr. spoke to the council at the beginning of the meeting about what the group hopes to accomplish moving forward.
Johnson said that, while the commission’s bylaws may need some revision and updating that will be done over the next several months, it will continue with the three purposes that were summarized at its Aug. 27 meeting.
“The Human Relations Commission will, one, promote an open community by promoting an understanding of human relations, investigate and study problems, complaints and specific situations and make recommendations to the city to facilitate orderly change to solve issues of oppression, discrimination and injustice,” Johnson said. “Two, we will serve as a conduit and an advisory board to the mayor and city council. Citizens can bring issues to the human relations commission, and the human relations commission can investigate issues and make recommendations to council on how to improve relationships in the community. Three, serve as a coordinating agency in the community to partner with other groups and individuals with missions in line with the purpose of the human relations commission and conduct programs to promote equal rights and understanding.”
Johnson said the commission felt it was best to add the four positions to the HRC to allow for better representation of different segments of the community.
“One of the things we’ve heard a lot lately about the Human Relations Commission is that it’s the best-kept secret in Morganton, and we are working assiduously, I might say, to make sure people know we are here to find out what the issues are in the city and look at ways we can improve our community,” Johnson said. “We are working on that.”
The commission can be reached at email@example.com to share issues and concerns.
Members of the public are welcome to attend HRC meetings. The commission will resume meeting face-to-face at Mountain View Recreation Center at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Johnson said the HRC would appreciate people letting them know that they plan to attend so the commission can make the appropriate adjustments for COVID-19.
In other news, those who have enjoyed the city’s parklets and streatery will get to enjoy them a little longer.
Council members voted Monday night to extend the city’s temporary outdoor guidelines allowing for the streatery at the corner of King and West Union streets, as well as the parklets in downtown parking spaces near eateries.
City Manager Sally Sandy said lots of businesses have commented on the increased foot traffic they’ve seen because of the streateries and parklets, and that several people have asked that some of the parklets become permanent.
She said the city has received mostly positive comments about the streateries and parklets, but the city also has received complaints “quite often” about the half-block closure of King Street for the streatery. She said the city hasn’t really received complaints about the lost parking spots downtown from the parklets.
The extension will be applicable for 90 days or until the pandemic ends.
Council members also approved giving $10,000 each to Burke United Christian Ministries and The Outreach Center to help residents who have fallen behind on their utility bills.
The funds were part of the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus CARES ACT funds, and this was the second round of awards. There will be additional funds still in the city’s account, and those funds will be distributed as they are requested by nonprofits.
Sandy said there’s more than $500,000 in unpaid utility bills from March to September of this year. She said the city will work with customers to set up payment plans, and she said the plans are a minimum of six months.
Other items approved by the council included:
• Minutes from a regular meeting held Aug. 3 and a special meeting held Aug. 13.
• A resolution appointing a tax collector and a resolution ordering the tax collector to collect taxes.
• A budget amendment to receive $8,155 in grant funds from the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation and the United States Department of Justice Bulletproof Vest Partnership.
• Several pay range adjustments and updates.
• Approval of documents related to the Morganton Trading Company refinancing some property that the city leases.
Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter.
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