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Council approves $69,026 in grants to Benchwarmers renovation, expansion

SALISBURY — The Mowery Building, home in recent years to the Benchwarmers bar at 113 E. Fisher St., gained approval Tuesday for $69,026 in economic development incentive grants from the city of Salisbury.

Todd and Jennifer Littleton of TFL Properties plan to invest $600,000 in a restoration and expansion of their building. The finished project expects to include a restaurant on the ground floor and a full music venue on the second floor.

The upper level will be expanded and include a New Orleans-style balcony. In all, the building will be 9,500 square feet. When finished, Downtown Salisbury Inc. and RowanWorks officials said, the project will create 29 new jobs (17 full-time and 12 part-time).

The building will generate $45,144 in tax revenue for the city over 10 years, according to current ad valorem and municipal service district tax rates.

Models put the total estimated economic impact of the project at about $1.36 million.

Salisbury City Council voted Tuesday to approve a building rehabilitation grant of $50,000, calculated at 25 percent of eligible renovation expenses. In addition, council approved a $19,026 fire suppression grant, calculated at $2 a square foot for putting in a sprinkler system.

Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy, looking at the grants incentives for the owners, the $600,000 investment in the building and the $1.36 million economic impact, said, “To me, it’s just a win-win-win for the city of Salisbury.”

Mayor Paul Woodson said the incentive grant program, initiated for downtown properties in 2014, has been working well for the city, Other projects using the grants have included renovations of the former Bernhardt Hardware and the former Tractor Building (for New Sarum Brewery).

Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell noted the grants are not paid out until a project is complete.

In another downtown matter, council voted 4-0 in favor of a rezoning and conditional district overlay for Richard’s Barbecue at 522 N. Main St.

The zoning on the property will now be downtown mixed-use (DMX). But the DMX zoning prohibits parking in the front yard of a property — the reason for the conditional district to allow parking.

Richard Monroe, owner of the barbecue restaurant, needed the city’s action so he can add 11 parking spaces on the side yard that he split with the new Rowan-Salisbury Schools central office now under construction. That land used to belong to Shulenburger Surveying.

Suggesting that Monroe might see more customers once the central office is open, Woodson said, “Some of us would like to know whether you are selling stock in your business.”

Also in the downtown, council voted 4-0 to allow a “Krazy Karnival” to operate from 1-9 p.m. July 18 in the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot.

The carnival will include a Ferris Wheel next to the mural and an eight-seat Chair-O-Plane Kiddie Swing. Downtown Salisbury Inc. made the request for the carnival, which will be part of its weeklong Krazy Klearance Sidewalk Sale.

The city’s land development ordinance allows the temporary use of carnivals or circuses for periods not to exceed 21 days.

Blackwell asked who is liable in case of an accident on the rides. City Attorney Rivers Lawther said the carnival operator, and DSI also has insurance for the event.

Kennedy asked how security would be handled. Mollie Ruf, promotions director for DSI, said two off-duty police officers would be used.

In other city business, council:

• Approved changing the speed limit on a portion of Jake Alexander Boulevard from 55 to 45 mph. It is the only portion of Jake Alexander Boulevard within the city limits still posted at 55 mph and two schools — Isenberg Elementary and Sacred Heart Catholic School — are along this section.

The speed limit will be reduced from a point a quarter-mile north of Woodleaf Road to the city limits.

• Approved reducing the posted speed limit in The Gables subdivision from 35 to 25 mph. A petition signed by 83 percent of property owners in The Gables asked for the reduced speed limit.

• Approved contractor Alfred Wilson’s request to close three parking spaces in front of St. Luke’s Episocal Church during renovations to the church. The parking spaces are expected to be used by the contractor between 6 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. each day, but overnight blocking of the spaces will be rare.

• Approved application for a $32,047 Justice Assistance Grant. If awarded, $20,343 of the grant would go to the Salisbury Police Department, and $11,704 would go to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

• Approved Time Warner Cable’s request to lay 3,969 feet of fiber-optic cable in the public right of way. The fiber cable will be laid along Old Concord Road near Arlington Street and near Gold Hill Drive, on Lincolnton Road and on Gold Hill Road. The city charges a $1-per-foot annual tax for use of the public right of way, which will come to $3,960.

Council also approved Time Warner’s request to install 67 feet of fiber under Arlington Street in between Burger King and Chick fil-A. Time Warner will pay the city $670 a year for that use of right of way.

“Our citizens will ask why we’re helping our competitors,” Kennedy said, and Woodson said someone asked him “that very question” at lunch Monday.

City Manager Lane Bailey said the city, which has its own fiber-optic utility (Fibrant), must abide by its franchise agreement with Time Warner.

• Appointed Dora Wood and Sue McHugh to the Human Relations Council.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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