Two topics dominated the discussion at the monthly Lincolnton City Council meeting on Tuesday Oct. 3. The first was the homeless population living in tent communities within city limits and the other, one-stop voting.
John Hall, the executive director of Hesed House of Hope, spoke to the council to address the issues surrounding the homeless population living within the city limits in tents. Those people who are allowed to stay at Hesed House are held accountable, Hall told the council, however, there are many homeless people who are living in tent communities. Some are living in close proximity to area businesses and residences.
“Hesed House takes the burden for all homeless,” Hall said. “Those who are in the shelter we have our hands on and can work with them. Those that are in tent communities, we have no control over.”
Hall has been doing weekly outreach efforts to those living in tents but substance abuse and mental health issues often keep them out of the shelter, which has strict guidelines for its residents. This discussion was brought in to play, Mayor Ed Hatley said, to discuss the potential of enacting ordinances to help control tent communities within city limits. This ordinance would help police officers to better manage these individuals.
During the discussion, Hatley and the other council members expressed gratitude for the work that Hall and his staff are doing at Hesed House. Alex Patton, the Hesed House chairman of the board, provided closing comments addressing the policy that Hesed House is working on to give Lincoln County residents priority in the shelter. This is to address concerns that other counties are bringing their homeless population to Lincolnton because of Hesed House.
Lincolnton Chief of Police Rodney Jordan cautioned the council against enacting any ordinances limiting tent communities due to the Martin v. Boise, “camping lawsuit” that arose from enforcement of a city ordinance that banned people who are homeless from sleeping in public places. Other cities are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its appeal. He reiterated the concern that other communities are giving people “vouchers” to come to Lincolnton telling them that Lincolnton has a place for them. Jordan suggested that the city enact laws preventing other cities or counties from pushing their homeless population to Lincolnton. The tent communities have been an ongoing issue for the Lincolnton Police Department.
It was agreed that a task force needed to be formed, in a timely manner, to address the challenges of tent communities within the city limits so that the council could make an educated decision.
The Lincoln County Board of Elections moved from the James W. Warren Citizens Center to a new facility at 451 Salem Church Road in Lincolnton effective Oct. 1. Hatley was concerned that this would pose a problem when one stop voting for city elections begins given the new facility is not in the city limits. Council members discussed a potential location for an additional polling place to make it easier for voters living in the city limits to cast their votes. It was suggested that the conference room that the council meets in could be suggested to the county. Council members agreed that Hatley would write a letter to the elections board to propose that the conference room be added as an additional polling place during one stop voting.
Other business included
- Approval to go to public hearing on Nov. 7 of an application from the Boger City Volunteer Fire Department to amend CUP-6-2001 (constructing a new fire department in the R-25 District) to allow for construction of a fire training center on the 3.975 acre volunteer fire department site located at 410 McAlister Road.
- Approval to go to public hearing on Nov. 7 of an application from Shu Zheng Zhao requesting a conditional use permit to allow for an amusement, arcade or game room business. The business will be located in the Lincoln Station Shopping Center at 906-920 East Main Street.
- An application was approved to go to public hearing on Nov. 7 from Rebecca Chambers requesting a conditional use rezoning from Medium Density Residential (R-10) to Neighborhood Business Conditional Use (NB-CU) for the purposes of a beauty salon. The business will be located 603 North Flint Street.
- Application from the Lincolnton Planning Department requesting an amendment to section 153.057 (D) related to aggregate area of accessory structures permitted on parcel was approved to go to public hearing on Nov. 7.
- A surplus handgun and badge will be presented to retiring Lincolnton Police Department officer Rick Hensley on Nov. 7.
- Lincolnton Police Department Detective Jennifer Greene was presented with a framed Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate obtained through the NC Training and Standards Commission.
- Carole Howell provided an update on the 2019 Lincoln County Apple Festival.
- The revisions to Title XIII: General Offenses, Chapter 130.05, Special Events and Festivals was approved to read, “Any conduct deemed to be disruptive or dangerous to participants or attendees of the special event. Abusive or threatening language that disrupts a special event or festival or that abuses or threatens another person in a manner likely to cause a fight or brawl at a special event or festival is prohibited. Noise Ordinance 93.016(1) also applies.”
- The application from Helms Security, Inc. requesting the rezoning of approximately 0.294 acres of land from Single-Family Medium Density Residential District R-10 to Central Business Transitional (CBT) was approved. The subject property is located at 419 East Sycamore Street.
- An application from Marco and Kimberly Gonzalez for a $15,000 Business Incentive Grant for building renovations to expand their retail space, Just Around the Corner, to the second floor at 120 East Main Street was approved.
- Two resolutions to match potential grant funds for equipment needed by the Lincolnton Fire Department were approved.
- Contracts to begin work on the Lincolnton Dog Park were awarded to Deal Construction to perform site grading for $47,100. Fister Fence Company for fencing for $24,160 and $30,810.75 to J.T. Russell & Sons, Inc. for asphalt work. It’s anticipated that work will begin on the park as soon as possible. The completion date is as of now, unknown due to weather.
- An amendment to the Lincolnton Police Department on standard operating procedures rescinding previous policy concerning part time police officers was approved. This amendment is due, according to Jordan, to the difficulty in obtaining new police officers and volunteers are impossible to find.
- The council approved the request from the Lincolnton Tourism Development Authority to change the membership to six members, of which at least one-third must be individuals affiliated with a business that will collect room occupancy tax and at least three-fourths will be members active in the promotion of travel and tourism in the city.