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City Council passes UDO amendment

Staff Writer

An amendment to the Lincolnton Unified Development Ordinance approved in a split vote by the City Council Thursday night will reduce the separation requirement previously stipulated for social clubs and lounges in downtown, with those in favor of the change saying it will help reduce barriers to entry for new businesses.
Council member Carroll Heavner was the lone opponent to the proposal, with the rest noting that they initially had mixed feelings. However, as individual businesses hoping to take advantage of the new opportunity will still be required to apply for a conditional-use permit, to be brought before and voted upon by the City Council, they ultimately voted in favor of the request.
The approved amendment will specifically decrease the separation requirement for such businesses and nearby churches, schools, public parks or playgrounds and residential property from 300 feet to 50 feet, to be measured from building to building instead of property line to property line.
Additionally, the amendment, as recommended by the Planning Board in a 4-3 vote, will apply only to the city’s Central Business (CB) District.
Several local business owners addressed council members during a public hearing on the proposal, all speaking in favor of it.
Daniel Jacob Rhodes, who owns Fausto Coffee on Court Square along with his wife, said that, if left unchanged, the previous restrictions would “severely stifle” downtown Lincolnton’s ability to grow.
Chris Goodson of the Lincoln Theatre Guild echoed his sentiments, noting that relaxing the rule could lead to better opportunities. It would also prevent people from having to go outside the county to visit similar institutions, he said.
Belmont, Morganton, Hickory and Gastonia were cited by Brooke Sherrill of the Downtown Development Association as prime examples of locations that have proved successful in offering more evening activities.
Applicant Bryan McClure encouraged council members to approve the amendment, noting that they could always write in stipulations during the conditional-use permit process on a case-by-case basis.
He also explained that, for those looking to get into business who can’t afford the installation of a full-fledged kitchen for an eatery or don’t meet the required percentage in food sales as compared to alcohol sales to be classified as a restaurant by state regulations, the amendment would remove the hurdle preventing them from starting up. Eventually, he added, they could “grow into a nice restaurant.”
“We’re running short of millionaires around here,” he joked.
In reference to the city’s need for additional water customers, McClure also stressed that “microbreweries use a lot of water.”
In other City Council action:
Council members unanimously voted to authorize the advertisement of an offer to purchase city-owned property, located at 1201 E. Catawba St. At its previous meeting, the council voted to proceed with an upset bid process, as required by state law, following an offer from Tabernacle of Blessings to purchase the property.
Council members unanimously approved a contract with the Downtown Development Association for the 2013 “Alive After Five” concert series and another for this year’s “Hog Happenin” event.
Council members unanimously approved a limited-access agreement with Robert Bosch Tool Corporation to conduct testing on city-owned property. The company is planning to put a test well at City Park, with the city assuming no liability, as part of an environmental investigation into potential groundwater contamination.
Council members scheduled a budget work session to follow the May 2 regular meeting, while also changing the date of June’s regular meeting to Monday, June 3 as opposed to Thursday, June 6.

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