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Granite Quarry planner tells aldermen it’s time to get moving on downtown plan

GRANITE QUARRY — Since a Downtown Master Plan was created in 2015 and approved in 2016, Granite Quarry has completed some easy, low-cost improvements.

But Town Planner Steve Blount asked the Board of Aldermen on Monday whether it is ready to take the next step and tackle high-impact projects that will cost much more.

Blount went quickly through a slide presentation on the plan Monday night. The planning process behind it three years ago was “to develop a revitalization plan for the town’s core area along U.S. 52.”

What followed were seven roundtable meetings with community stakeholders, two Town Hall public input meetings, two surveys with responses from more than 140 people, a public design workshop and a separate marketing analysis.

It resulted in goals and recommendations in four strategic areas: economic development, planning and design, marketing and branding, and organization and partnership.

Noting that many consultant-driven, expensive and thick plans with fancy covers often wind up on the shelf, Blount said the best plans simply are those that are implemented.

So his first questions to aldermen Monday night were whether they support the plan and whether they want to continue moving forward with it.

If they want to move ahead, Blount said, the town staff and the revitalization team need direction. And again Blount added a warning: it will cost money.

Many more visible, high-impact projects outlined in the master plan also will require investment from private property owners.

“Some of those people are waiting anxiously for the town to make some major steps forward to prove our commitment to the plan,” Blount said.

If the town were to get the ball rolling, Blount said, some proposed next steps will be to look at the square, which is considered to be the U.S. 52-Bank Street intersection.

Changes there could involve improved crosswalks, new traffic light standards, decorative lighting, revised landscaping at sidewalks and on private property, and improved facades on several buildings.

Things that might have to change on some of the corners are planters, continuous curb cuts and overhead wires.

Blount spoke strongly for extensive street tree planting initially between Town Hall and the square. He said street trees are important visually for breaking up and softening the view of buildings.

He said trees also would add a comfort level for motorists, pedestrians and visitors to Granite Quarry. He showed aldermen examples of towns with street trees and those without.

Town Hall itself could represent another high-impact project with a renovation to the facade and a change to the landscaping, Blount noted.

“I think the business community wants to see the town take this first step,” Alderman John Linker said.

Linker and Alderman Jim Costantino are board liaisons to the revitalization committee. Linker said the committee has recently discussed putting a focus on the square by removing four large planters and possibly replacing them with rock-inspired water features.

The committee also has discussed Christmas lights and banners, and Linker said maybe a new challenge would be changes to the landscape around Town Hall.

“We’re kind of at a critical juncture with this plan,” Town Manager Phil Conrad said.

In other business Monday, Conrad gave aldermen an update on several projects.

Easter Creek Partners has submitted site plans for a second speculative building — a 100,000-square-foot structure in Granite Quarry Industrial Park. Those plans will go to the Planning Board and Technical Review Committee.

Easter Creek already has built a 150,000-square-foot spec building in the industrial park off Heilig Road and Chamandy Drive.

Conrad said State Employees’ Credit Union is getting closer to a construction start on its new branch in Granite Quarry.

The Village of Granite residential subdivision, whose full development off Faith Road would include 250 homes, also is close to construction. “That project is visibly moving forward,” Conrad said.

A 32-house subdivision, going by the name Stone Glen, is planned for an area off Peeler Street, Conrad told the board.

In other business Monday, the aldermen:

• Appointed Richard Luhrs, Michelle Reid and the Rev. David Trexler to four-year terms on the Planning Board.

• Appointed Greg Lowe, Doreen Luhrs and Jim Miller to four-year terms on the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

• Appointed finance analyst and event planner Shelly Shockley as the town’s finance officer and Deputy Town Clerk Scott Stewart as assistant finance officer.

• Heard a presentation from Shockley on the town’s Paylocity program, as far as features being used, those used but not to their full potential and those available but not being used.

• Heard from Linker and Costantino, who represent the board’s building committee, that consideration is being given to interior renovations at Town Hall.

Proposals suggest creating two office spaces at the front of the building, improving traffic flow for the public and giving the Police Department extra space for an evidence room.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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