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City should drop UDO residence requirement

The proposed Unified Development Ordinance for the city of Lincolnton is a comprehensive plan designed to foster growth and positive development downtown but it may be over optimistic with its provision requiring residential units in new downtown commercial construction.
Lincolnton City Council members Thursday deferred a decision on the proposed ordinance after hearing some opposition, most based on the residential requirement. The plan states that any new commercial construction with a gross floor area of 5,000 square feet will have to include at least two residential dwelling units per development.
Lincolnton resident Charles Eurey made a good observation at the hearing when he noted that upstairs space is already available downtown, but few property owners see merit in going residential. Another cause for hesitation was raised when an official with First Charter Bank flatly stated that the bank would scratch plans for a new $2.6 million bank on East Main Street if the apartments were required. He cited security concerns the bank would have with residences located in the same building.
Certainly, the city should encourage residential use downtown, where possible. Business owner Charlotte Farmer is already developing some downtown properties for such a use. But Lincolnton is not seeing enough development downtown to start imposing such a major requirement. It could do more harm than good, scaring off would-be development.
Upstairs lofts and building-top apartments thrive in the right places. Beach and mountain resort communities are ideal for such arrangements. But Lincolnton, today, is not in a position where such amenities should be required. Indeed, we would be happy to see any new bank buildings, restaurants or tasteful retail outlets downtown.
Council members should consider adopting the many other, worthwhile measures in the UDO, which contains important changes involving sidewalks, parking, garage locations, open space and restrictions involving “big box” stores.

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