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Granite Quarry has blueprint for downtown improvements

GRANITE QUARRY ­— The Board of Aldermen has a ready-made set of resolutions for the new year that could change the business dynamics and look of Granite Quarry’s central business district for years to come.
Susan Closner, planning and zoning administrator, gave aldermen a summary Monday night of recommendations left by a visiting technical team in December.
During Dec. 6-7, Dianne Young and Ted Alexander conducted interviews and personally toured much of Granite Quarry as part of their work through the N.C. Downtown Development Association.
Their final report is expected to be delivered later this week, but Closner was able to share the gist of the final recommendations.
And there are plenty. Here’s a summary:
• Maintain the newly formed revitalization team to carry out the report’s recommendations.
• Form a Granite Quarry Business Association.
• Establish a Community Appearance Commission.
• Maintain a newly created Visionary Fund.
• Explore alternative funding sources such as the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority, increased rental fees for the Legion Building and a voluntary rounding up charges on water-sewer bills.
• Compile a list of all the nearby assets, including all businesses in the central business district.
• Develop a brochure to promote the destinations on the list of assets, with a map showing the location of each place.
• Install wireless capabilities in local parks and promote the availability.
• Have an intern develop Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote the destinations on the list of assets.
• Develop special events, possibly to include an expansion of Granitefest, concerts and sporting events in the parks and a local church tour at Christmas.
• Promote new business openings with a grand-opening banner, ribbon-cutting and brief articles in the town’s e-newsletter.
• Have directional signs installed at key locations along major arteries leading to Granite Quarry.
• Visually define the central business district with a year-round banner program and a custom street sign unique to Granite Quarry.
• Install landscaping through planters or hanging baskets, only if it includes a maintenance plan for their upkeep.
• Develop a long-term plan for the installation of decorative lighting throughout the central business district.
• Repair or replace deteriorating sidewalks. In places where sidewalks are directly behind the curb, move the sidewalk back 3 to 5 feet, to create a buffer from U.S. 52.
• Install one or two bicycle racks in key locations.
• Suggest that restaurants and shops take advantage of the space in front of their businesses with outside dining, art, planters and other amenities.
• Encourage local property owners to make physical improvements to include new color schemes, fabric awnings and creative signs.
• Revisit the present sign ordinance and determine if it has taken into account the setbacks of buildings. Modify if necessary.
• Develop a local program to recognize and reward beautification efforts.
• Explore developing an overlay for all or part of the residential zoning district along U.S. 52, between Granite Lake Park and Fred’s.
Closner said the Planning Board will be looking at several of these recommendations.
Mayor Mary Ponds said there were recommendations on which the town could act immediately, such as preparing and designing a grand-opening banner so it’s ready for new businesses.
Closner said eight business people participated during the visit of Young and Alexander, along with town department heads. Since news about the revitalization effort was published, Closner said she had received several calls from other merchants looking to be part of the town’s efforts.
In other business Monday night, Alderman Jim Lafevers reported that All-American has taken up part of the town’s residential recycling route. Shark is the other residential recycling provider.
All-American picks up recycling for its customers on the first and third Wednesdays of the month; Shark, on the first and third Thursdays.
Granite Quarry residents who participate in recycling receive a $5 discount on their monthly solid waste fee.
Town Manager Dan Peters said the town has successfully simplified the billing in connection to recycling with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, and LaFevers said that should lead to more participation in the recycling efforts.
In another matter, Peters informed the board of an $18,038.75 assessment for unemployment insurance, mainly connected to two police officers no longer with the Faith-Granite Quarry Police Authority.
The Granite Quarry board will pay the entire amount of the assessment for the police department, which amounts to $15,730. Faith’s portion of $3,397 will be paid or prorated at the end of the year, depending on funds not spent in the police budget.
Peters said any unspent funds from the police budget will be designated to the unemployment insurance assessment and not carried over to the vehicle line item for the following year.
The assessment amount blind-sided both Granite Quarry and Faith. Granite Quarry had paid only $648.02 in unemployment in 2011, none in 2010; $1,475.29 in 2009 and $498.30 in 2008.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Feather recommended that an audit of some kind be conducted to determine whether the towns should have done something else to avoid such a high assessment.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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