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Kannapolis council discusses city’s challenges, opportunities

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS — Like a well-wrapped Christmas present, city officials hope to find a golden thread that ties communities together and places a bow on downtown, Councilman Tom Kincaid said Monday.

Kannapolis city government is in the midst of creating a comprehensive plan for the future. The City Council spent the largest portion of Monday’s regularly scheduled work session discussing opportunities and challenges facing the city. Kincaid’s statement came as he described something most council members seemed to agree on — growth potential is an opportunity and a challenge.

“How do we grow, which direction do we grow and how do we grow wisely?” Kincaid asked, listing questions facing Kannapolis. “Those are all decisions we’re going to have to make between now and the next, probably, 12 to 16 to 18 months. We want to do the right thing. We’ve got to do something.”

Sitting back and doing nothing definitely isn’t an option, Kincaid said.

“Where’s the thread that pulls all of this together?” he asked. “I think what we’re looking for is the golden thread that runs through all these entities and ties the bow on downtown.”

In 2015, Kannapolis began a substantial project to revitalize its downtown. First, the city purchased the entire downtown. Now, it is in the process of trying to attract private investment, building a baseball stadium downtown, and making streetscape and infrastructure improvements to the area.

As various documents were being prepared as part of the downtown revitalization, Kannapolis hired a consultant to kick off its work on the comprehensive plan in November. Clarion Associates, which has offices in Chapel Hill, is scheduled to have a final plan ready by late 2017. Public hearings will be held on the plan.

A representative of Clarion Associates on Monday told the council that the plan will serve as a “strategy document” for future growth.

Councilman Ryan Dayvault was the first to speak about opportunities and challenges facing Kannapolis. Opportunities listed by Dayvault included: redeveloping downtown, a widening of Interstate 85, and taking advantage of the Amtrak train station in the city. He listed the challenges as: encouraging renovation of older houses, adding to the stock of available housing downtown and uniting areas of the city rather than creating separate communities.

Councilman Roger Haas said one of the city’s challenges is that there is no single, defined area for new businesses to locate.

“Where we always have our biggest attendance at the City Council (meetings) is when, all of a sudden, someone wants to come in here and the zoning is not where it should be,” Haas said. “I hope we can get ahead of the curve a little bit with the zoning and say, ‘Here are areas that should be saved for those purposes.'”

Councilman Darrell Jackson said the city needs to ensure that residents are well-informed about plans for downtown development.

Mayor Darrell Hinnant listed an item that could be considered an opportunity and a challenge. If Charlotte keeps growing at its current rate, the biggest challenge and opportunity will be “choice,” Hinnant said.

“What do we do, what do we begin to take in, what is it that we want to do next?” Hinnant said. “And, yet, as a corollary to choice, there’s also the funding source. How are we going to pay for it?”

Councilwoman Diane Berry said it’s important that Kannapolis maintain its sense of history.

Separate from the conversation about challenges and opportunities, City Council members expressed concern that all parts of city government be “on the same page” when it’s time to approve the comprehensive plan. Specifically, they expressed worry about the city Planning and Zoning Commission, which voted opposite from the council on a 900-job project.

Dayvault said it needs to be “very clear” that bringing jobs and economic opportunities to the city rank at the top of the priority list.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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