Several community members spoke out about the homeless population during the public comment session of the most recent meeting of the Lincolnton City Council held on Jan. 6. Rex Rhyne, owner of Trim Barber Shop, expressed his concerns saying that he had to run an individual out of his barber shop who was harassing customers. He also told council members about an incident at the dance studio close to his business wherein a woman was found in the restroom at the facility, and another business that had equipment stolen off a truck. Rhyne did say that he didn’t know if the theft was done by a homeless individual or not.

“You’ve made great strides to bring business in, but if they keep getting harassed, they’re going to close their shops down,” he said. 

Jonathan Austin, a dentist practicing within the city limits also spoke about the homeless population saying that he had an individual defecate on his porch. 

“Thanks to Chief Jordan, we’ve made the area less friendly for them,” he said. “I recommend you shut off power to the light pole in front of the library because it’s being used as a charging port for homeless individuals. I hate to come to you with a problem without an answer, but I promise you I’ll be meeting with a lot of charitable organizations around the area to find out what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how they’re doing it. I’m not saying to be un-Christian-like, but we really need to make the county and city unattractive to the vagrants who are coming in.”

Austin told the council members about his recent trip to San Francisco and how someone had just been robbed coming out of the rental car center at the airport.

“We’re on the beginning of this,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s going to get that bad, but I think we need to start right now. I think getting rid of the services where they feed them is going to make us unattractive and make them move out. The police department has done a lot, but I think we need the salaries are behind the times on them and they need to be increased. It’s only a matter of time before someone’s harmed.”

Another individual who lives on Startown Road near Clarks Creek spoke about the planned development, Clarks Creek Landing, Phase 1 was recently approved by the council. This individual said that there was significant opposition to this project, but these people weren’t aware of the public hearing. She proposed that city council propose to the developer that the density be reduced and spread out over Phase 1 and Phase 2.

At the one rezoning public hearing held that evening, one community member spoke against the rezoning of land located on North Flint Street during a public hearing which was held on the application from Dynamo Holdings, LLC requesting the rezoning of 0.638 acres of land from Residential-10 district to Residential Multi-Family Conditional district for the purpose of constructing two duplex units. The subject property is located on the west side of North Flint Street approximately 200 feet north of the intersection of North Flint Street and East McBee Street.

The concern of this community member included any potential change to what the applicant has proposed, whether the duplex could be sold or rented, the type of tenant that the property may be rented to and concerns as to drainage. She asked for foliage to be added as a barrier between her property and the potential duplex for security. 

The community member who spoke didn’t attend the planning board hearing which was when these concerns could have been raised and addressed, according to Mayor Ed Hatley. Council members suggested postponing the decision for a month, but that wasn’t acceptable to the applicant so it was agreed that discussion about the neighbor’s concerns would be addressed out in the hallway while the meeting went on. 

After discussion, installation of greenery was agreed upon and prevention of water run-off by putting a berm in place. Council members unanimously approved the rezoning with the compromises in place.

Lincolnton Fire Department Chief Ryan Heavner approached the council to discuss the purchase of a used firetruck/tanker for the city to keep insurance rates low. The current model, Heavner explained, was a 1990 that the State of North Carolina prevents firefighters from riding in the back of. 

“It has no safety features whatsoever, which is okay because it’s a limited use vehicle,” he said. “Trying to be a good steward of money I approached the city manager and instead of suggesting that we buy a $450,000 firetruck, the Denver Fire Department was gracious to let us be first in line to look at a tanker that they’re trying to sell. This a check the box kind of firetruck, we have to have one because the State of North Carolina says that we have to have it to have a good insurance rate.”

The firetruck that the Denver Fire Department is selling costs $50,000 and is in excellent condition, according to Heavner. This tanker will be sufficient for the Boger City fire district, some of which is rural, as well.

Council members unanimously approved the purchase of this firetruck with funds coming out of the city’s general fund with Boger City Fire Department.

In other business, City Clerk Daphne Ingram was recognized for earning the International Institute of Municipal Clerks’ designation of Certified Municipal Clerk.

In his manager’s report, Ritchie Haynes reminded council members that it was coming up on budget time, and as part of the upcoming budget, it was time to decide what to do and create a plan of action regarding the old Lincolnton Police building, a plan of action regarding the homeless population, the downtown streetscape plan, suggesting that money be put in the budget to hire an architect, and developing a plan of action for affordable housing. 

Haynes also presented a proposed site plan for the parking lot to be installed adjacent to the Lincoln Times-News building as well as a listing of code enforcement cases within city limits which are currently being pursued.

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