By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó Members of the Spencer Board of Aldermen on Tuesday amended an ordinance allowing for more single-family housing along the town’s Highway Business District.
Prior to Tuesday, once a house in the Highway Business District (generally that along Salisbury Avenue) was vacant for six months or more, it could be used solely for business purposes, not as a private residence.
The ordinance also prohibited the construction of houses in the Highway Business District.
Tony McBride, who operates Iron Imports Depot on South Salisbury Avenue, requested the ordinance amendment.
The ordinance amendment passed 4-1, with Alderman Nick Bishop casting the dissenting vote.
Bishop said it wasn’t too long ago that he helped write the ordinance that prohibited new houses in the district. He said the idea behind the ordinance was to make it so businesses and residences wouldn’t have to co-exist side by side.
Bishop said Tuesday he wasn’t convinced an ordinance amendment was necessary.
“I’m not sure we’re not going to open a whole new can of worms,” he said.
Other aldermen disagreed. Several noted that even if the amendment was approved, those wishing to build in the business district or move into a house that had been vacant could do so only through a permit that the board must approve.
Each application would be considered individually, they said.
Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Morris noted that if a house in the district has sat empty for six months, it becomes almost useless since most don’t have enough parking to support a business.
“They become unmarketable as a residence, unmarketable as a business,” Morris said.
He said owners may have no choice but to tear down the properties. Morris noted that even while the properties sit vacant and unmarketable, the owners have no choice but to continue paying taxes.
“I don’t want us to hamstring our property owners,” Morris said.
He and other board members said they don’t anticipate much interest in housing along the stretch despite the ordinance amendment.
“I doubt there’ll be a demand for people who want to live on a busy four-lane highway,” Morris said.
In other matters handled Tuesday, board members:
– Heard from Police Chief Robert Bennett, who said he’d met with members of the N.C. Department of Transportation recently who told him that construction along Interstate 85 outside of town should be finished by the end of February.
“Of course, nothing is written in stone,” Bennett said, noting that the work was supposed to have been finished by the end of December.
– Approved a resolution recognizing February as Black History Month in town.
– Gave Darlene Burnside, the owner of Our Place Cafe on Fifth Street, permission to put a small, portable fence in front of the restaurant during business hours.
The fence will separate from the street those eating at tables in front of the restaurant. The fence must be taken inside when the business isn’t open.
Burnside said the fence is portable and weighted down. She must also release the town from any financial liabilities should the fence fall and hurt someone.
Board members approved the request unanimously, though Town Manager Larry Smith warned of the precedent they’d be setting by its approval.
“I don’t see any adverse effects,” Smith said, noting that any other businesses wanting to erect similar fences must also come before the board for permission.
Mayor Jody Everhart spoke in favor of the fence.
“I think it’lll look better than just some tables sitting out there,” he said.
– Appointed Jatana Patterson to the Land Use Planning committee.
– Approved $7,500 to Allred & Carrick of Lexington for an audit of the town’s financial records.
– Rejected a request by Rusty Monroe of the Center for Municipal Solutions for workers with the business to serve as consultants for those wishing to locate cell towers in town.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.