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Massive warehouse project gets unanimous approval in Kannapolis

By Josh Bergeron

KANNAPOLIS — The city council on Monday unanimously approved a warehouse project that Mayor Darrell Hinnant said any mayor would love to have.

Situated next to the Don T. Howell Reservoir, the approved project would involve a 1.2-million-square-foot warehouse that’s estimated to create 950 jobs. Developers have also cited a 1,000-job figure. However, the warehouse would be a speculative building, said attorney for the project Christopher Kouri. As a result, job figures could differ depending on the tenant.

The warehouse would sit on a 117-acre tract of land to be developed by TPA Group, based in Atlanta, which is a real estate investment and development firm. Kouri said TPA Group has built 6 million square feet of warehouse space during the previous 36 months.

The proposal drew dozens of attendees and 20 speakers during a public comment period before the council voted to approve the rezoning, which consolidates multiple tracts of land into one classification. Opinions of speakers were split. Concerns primarily focused on environmental issues and the lack of a defined job figure. Supporters focused on the need for jobs in the Kannapolis community.

Speaking before his vote on the warehouse proposal, Councilman Ryan Dayvault focused on the fact that job figures cited by developers would represent a significant chunk of the thousands in lost jobs resulting from the bankruptcy of Pillowtex. He also keyed in on environmental concerns.

“The landscape out there is changing,” Dayvault said. “It’s just the way it is, and I really do feel sorry for that, but we have to do what’s best for the entire community.”

Mayor Darrell Hinnant spoke next, noting that he came to Kannapolis in 1975 providing water and waste treatment services to Cannon Mills. Hinnant said he’d never do something that would damage the reservoir.

“It seems to me to be a far stretch that a distribution facility would have the potential to damage Lake Howell,” he said. “We’re talking about the potential that a gas tank or a diesel tank might leak or we’re talking about maybe an engine that lost an oil filter or something of that nature.”

A pond to be built on the land in question would collect any runoff before it ends up in the reservoir, streams, or the Yadkin River, Hinnant said.

“If we had met you here tonight and not talked a single time about jobs and told you we had 300 guaranteed jobs, you’d be tickled to death,” Hinnant told the crowd of people gathered at the meeting. “The fact that it is 900 jobs makes it even better. As a member of a mayor’s coalition, I can tell you that every single mayor in that coalition would love to have this project.”

Councilman Roger Haas was sick and couldn’t attend the meeting. Instead, Hinnant read written comments from Haas, who said it’s the city council’s job to make hard decisions.

Some of the numerous people who spoke against the proposed warehouse project included attorneys Kenneth Davies and Madeline Trilling, Jacqueline Tucker of Shoe Show, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church Pastor John Leazer and Ron Bryant, who represented the Yadkin Riverkeeper organization.

Trilling gave a 15-minute presentation that followed one given by developers. In her presentation, she questioned whether the project would skirt rules focused on protecting water quality, reduce the amount of water in ponds leading into the reservoir and come with false job promises.

Trilling said the warehouse project would require 18 acres to be legally removed from a protected watershed area. The latest area removed from the reservoir’s watershed was 1.64 acres. It was removed to match the area’s topography.

Yadkin Riverkeeper Will Scott didn’t attend the meeting. In an emailed statement to the Salisbury Post, however, Scott said his organization was disappointed that the city council would put a drinking water supply in danger and “build a giant parking lot in a protected watershed area.”

Representatives of TPA Group repeatedly said the warehouse development would abide by all environmental laws. An engineer for the project went as far as saying he was offended that people would question that a project he worked on wouldn’t meet environmental laws.

During the public hearing, Kouri addressed questions about jobs by citing recent speculative building projects in Georgia. In his examples, Kouri said TPA group secured a commitment within a few months from a tenant interested in occupying the building.

Tucker said Shoe Show has a number of jobs available and couldn’t fill them. Other speakers questioned that assertion, saying there’s plenty of people in Kannapolis and surrounding areas that need and want a job.

The Kannapolis City Council, which began its meeting at 6 p.m., wrapped up consideration of the warehouse proposal at roughly 9 p.m. During the same meeting, the city council also approved an amendment to its land use plan that designates a portion of warehouse site as appropriate for “campus development,” the classification requested by TPA Group. Before Monday’s meeting, that portion of land had not been designated as best for a particular type of zoning.

Next, the warehouse proposal heads to the Kannapolis Board of Adjustment, which meets today at 6 p.m. The board will consider removing roughly 18 acres from the protected watershed area. State environmental regulators also need to approve the request but have given preliminary approval, according to city staff.

Without the Board of Adjustment’s and Department of Environmental Quality’s approval, the project cannot happen, city staff said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.




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