Wesley Chapel looks toward next project
WESLEY CHAPEL – The new town council in Wesley Chapel could find itself in the middle of discussions about how much to spend on a new community center at Dogwood Park when it is seated in December.
Voters in Wesley Chapel will vote on the mayoral and two council seats on Election Day, Nov. 5, as incumbent council members Kim Ormiston and Howard Brotton Jr. opted not to seek re-election. Mayor Brad Horvath is running unopposed, and council candidates Michael Como and Jeannine Kenary filed to run in July. Neither Como nor Kenary responded to multiple requests for comment about their candidacy from Union County Weekly.
The current council voted this summer to demolish an old home at the site of the new Dogwood Park – which is under construction – in exchange for building a community recreation center. The council decided refurbishing the home so it could be the community center was too costly compared to the price of building a new center, though council has not decided yet how much to spend for that new center.
The town will save 20 percent of its annual budget surplus to put toward the community center, officials said in a news release this summer. Depending on the cost of the proposed center, the new board may have to decide where to pull additional funding from.
“Since we have largely depleted our financial reserves for the aforementioned projects and not incurred any debt, it may be a while before we can undertake any big’ projects,” Horvath said in September. “However, I would like us to work with our committees and council on laying the groundwork for one or more of the following,” including a community center, he said.
The new council also could be tasked with making final tweaks to the new town hall and any further additions at Dogwood Park.
Find more information about Horvath at www.unioncountyweekly.com by searching “Wesley Chapel Election.”
Wesley Chapel Mayor
Ultimately, even though I am running unopposed again in this election, it is up to you, the residents of Wesley Chapel, to decide and to come out and vote in this election as a write-in is still possible. I believe that over the last eight years I have served the community well (four as your mayor and four on the council), and I have shown myself to be worthy of your trust. I know that I have done so in an honest and forthright manner. I have been able to work with the various other elected officials to make good, sound decisions on behalf of the community while maintaining the village’s low tax rate. And we have done that while undertaking two prudent and significant projects: our first town hall and our first park. Both of these projects were done economically, yet professionally and will serve the residents for many years. I have been blessed to be part of the progress we have made together with our boards and committees and ask for your continued support so we can complete these projects and keep working to make Wesley Chapel “A Great Place to Live and Raise a Family.”
Below is coverage from this election season in Wesley Chapel:
From October 18:
Wesley Chapel mayor discusses development
WESLEY CHAPEL – Union County Weekly has spent the last few months reaching out to candidates in western Union County towns, asking them about local residents’ concerns prior to Election Day on Nov. 5.
And though the three candidates in Wesley Chapel are running unopposed, residents still have questions for the candidates. Mayor Brad Horvath is running for re-election, and Michael Como and Jeannine Kenary are running to fill the two open seats left by current council members Kim Ormiston and Howard Brotton Jr. The seats of council members Becky Plyler and Elaine Rosoff will be up for re-election in 2015.
Horvath responded to the following questions when asked by Union County Weekly, but candidates Como and Kenary could not be reached for comment. Since Horvath is the only candidate to respond, his answers are run in full.
Are there any initiatives from other towns you would like to bring to Wesley Chapel?
Yes, and I have been working on several. One is to establish a greater sense of identity for the village.
While we will have a town hall that will be located in a more-prominent area next to the shopping center and a beautiful park to open next spring, I think that, because we are split into four zip codes by the post office, many of our residents don’t know they live in Wesley Chapel. So having some signs that say, “Wesley Chapel Welcomes You!” at the various entry points into the village would help.
This is similar to what has been done in Indian Trail and other towns. I also have been meeting with several of the towns around us and we have been talking about marketing ourselves as an area because we all have something to offer to prospective businesses and developers. The equestrian focus that Mineral Springs and Waxhaw have, for instance, gives us the opportunity to include Wesley Chapel as an area with nice homes and a shopping area that is centrally located. However, there also may be other ideas our council has that I would be interested in hearing and supporting. Any idea has to be tempered with the thought of cost and keeping the taxes low for our area. That is another aspect about what is unique about Wesley Chapel.
Do you feel Wesley Chapel would benefit from being more active in economic development partnerships with other nearby towns?
I have discussed that in the question above, but it would be more around marketing ourselves as a great community to live in with nice homes, great schools and low taxes. I don’t think we would be in favor of tax incentives, etc., for businesses because our local tax is already low.
Do you feel Wesley Chapel should consider taking measures to limit residential growth in town?
I have heard this issue broached in several ways. But ultimately, Wesley Chapel’s Land Use Plan and Ordinances support residential zoning of roughly one house per acre and I generally support that.
That is one of the things that makes the town unique among our neighbors. However, it is worth noting that a good portion of the subdivisions in Wesley Chapel were built under county rules and allowed to develop at much higher densities before being annexed into the village. It also is worth noting that our current predominant zoning is R-40, or one house pre acre. That means that a property owner has what is referred to as a “use by right,” enabling them to sell their property to a developer that wants to build at that density. The village has to allow that as long as the developer follows the requirements of our ordinances. It also is worth noting that many of these same property owners have owned the property for many years and the property is basically their 401K. Some have farmed the land for many years, but the next generation does not want that lifestyle. So, it would not be right to restrict their ability to sell, within reason.
So when the question is stated as limiting residential growth, that is not something I would support or would even be legal, if done in accordance with the village’s rules for development. I also would point out, and have said this multiple times at council meetings, that it is not right for someone to ask the council to take measures to limit residential growth from the perspective of saying that, since they moved into the area, they are here now so we can close the doors to further development. That doesn’t take into account the need and ability of property owners to sell their property for the aforementioned reasons.
However, I also am in favor of allowing some type of conservation subdivisions or clustering. That is where the net development for a piece of property would still be at one house per acre, but we would allow the developer to cluster the homes in a tighter area where the homes might be on a half or three-quarter acre piece of property with the remaining acreage left undisturbed or as buffering, increasing the potential for more green areas in the village to remain as we build out. The master plan that the University of North Carolina at Charlotte helped the village with many years ago, but was never fully adopted, had shown how growth in the village would use up the remaining open land over the next 25 to 35 years had growth continued at the rate we were experiencing at the time. And that open land is what drew many of us to settle in this area, along with the beautiful homes, etc. So conservation subdivisions/ clustering is something they suggested and the planning board and council are going to take a look at. Weddington has recently adopted such a provision.
This helps in several ways: it keeps some areas undeveloped; it allows the developer to reduce costs by keeping the infrastructure in a more-condensed area; and allows property owners that have unique land conditions, such as flood plains or land contours, etc., to sell their property to a developer that wants to maximize their investment. Just as a reminder, the net density would still be at the village’s stated rate of one house per acre. So, if under R-40 rules, a developer could put 50 houses on 50 acres of property, but wants to consider clustering, then they could still only put 50 houses on the 50 acres but the houses would be clustered and potentially be built on 25 acres with the remaining 25 acres remaining undisturbed.
In the end, I think this is fair to the current property owners, yet helps Wesley Chapel continue to be Wesley Chapel and keep some of our rural feel. Outside of those type of restrictions, there is no need to take additional measures to limit further residential growth.
Yes, there is the issue of the schools. But again, if you are not a resident that has lived here all your life, why should you be allowed to say I’m here so close the doors? I also have heard the argument, and have the same concerns, about increased traffic. But the other side of that argument is that our commercial area cannot finish its growth if there are not enough rooftops in the area. So I believe in taking a measured approach to development that tries to blend all of the above considerations. It is not an easy task but is one that we have to have a vision for and be willing to stand behind unless we want to be just like every other town. And, as I said before, Wesley Chapel is unique and I have heard from many of our local elected officials that like how we have allowed development but been true to ourselves. Ultimately, that is a factor of our residents and their desires, but still has to stay within legal grounds and take into account all parties.
What is the biggest issue you’re hearing from constituents in the run up to the election?
Interestingly enough, the biggest issue I have heard the last couple of months is about when the shopping center will be built out. Some of that is addressed above but I will repeat it here. First, I must note that the village has very little say what and when things happen outside of the initial approval that we gave the developer almost 10 years ago. The developer has to market the area and their development and entice stores, restaurants, etc., to want to open a location in this area. Many times, that is a factor of density and how many rooftops are located in the area. Please go out and look on the Internet at the developer’s website and you will see their marketing package that includes the demographics of the area. And, of course, during the initial construction, the economy faltered and growth slowed. So that is why some stores took longer to fill up or have yet to be built. And that gives the area an undeveloped look at least on one of the parcels. Ultimately, additional commercial development will occur when conditions warrant and it makes economic sense to the developer. There are certain uses they asked for and were granted by the village under the conditional use process the village uses for these projects. But even those can be amended if the developer makes a request of the village council for a new use to be considered. If you are interested, take a look at the village website and look at our Table of Uses (Chapter 5) that shows what can be allowable under each type of zoning. And then the conditional use process further limits that. Otherwise, when the developer gets enough tenants or a large enough tenant, they will build the next section of stores or allow them to move into existing space. In the end, if you know of or work for a particular tenant that is interested in moving into Wesley Chapel’s commercial area, please have them contact the commercial developer for that shopping center accordingly for further information.
Finally it is worth noting that the Village has been approached formally and informally regarding additional commercial development in the area. Our land use map has very limited locations identified for such other development. Some of that is to keep the residential flavor of the village. Another aspect is the amount of traffic that might be brought to a proposed area that may be near to an already-busy location or near a school, for instance. Ultimately, this is every resident’s village and the council and planning board try very hard to listen to our residents and make decisions that reflect the consensus of opinions. We know that not everyone is going to be happy with those decisions but you are always welcome to come down and express your opinions at our council meeting at 7 p.m. the second Monday of every month, currently at the Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church on South Potter Road just passed the elementary school on the corner of N.C. 84.
Beginning in December, we hope to be in our new town hall located at the east end of the Village Commons Phase II (Target) shopping center on N.C. 84.
From September 6:
Wesley Chapel to see two new council members
WESLEY CHAPEL – As leaders in Wesley Chapel see construction crews hammer out the details on the new Dogwood Park and town hall, Mayor Brad Horvath is looking into the near future as he runs unopposed in this year’s election.
There likely won’t be much excitement in November’s election for Wesley Chapel, as Horvath could only be unseated by a write-in campaign and there are only two candidates running for the two open council seats. Michael Como and Jeannine Kenary are likely to be elected along with Horvath, as current council members Kim Ormiston, the town’s mayor pro tem, and Howard Brotton opted not to seek re-election.
Union County Weekly has conducted candidate surveys through the past month, asking candidates in each town questions specific to their campaigns. Though Wesley Chapel candidates are running unopposed, they were still given the option to answer questions this week. Como and Kenary did not respond to calls by press deadline.
Relevant Experience: Mayor of Wesley Chapel from 2009 to 2013; council member from 2005 to 2009
Education: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y. (1973-74); Sayville High School, Sayville, N.Y. (1969-1973)
Family: Married for 39 years; six children, 11 grandchildren
Years lived in Wesley Chapel: 8.5 years
With the park and town hall coming into place, what do you think should be the next big project Wesley Chapel works on?
Since we have largely depleted our financial reserves for the aforementioned projects and not incurred any debt, it may be a while before we can undertake any “big” projects. However, I would like us to work with our committees and council on laying the groundwork for one or more of the following:
• EMS location in Wesley Chapel (possibly on 2+ acres of village-owned land behind 201 Central)
• Phase 2 of Dogwood Park (playground and/ or community center)
• Determine a usage for remaining 4 acres of village-owned land behind the town hall which may be a formal use or an informal one
Should Wesley Chapel do more to draw in commercial development?
This is a very complicated question as the village will have more commercial development when conditions warrant, but at the already-existing central node at the intersection of Weddington-Monroe Road (Hwy. 84) and Waxhaw-Indian Trail Road. Most commercial development is a factor of the number of houses in the surrounding area, and our residents have clearly indicated that they approve of the current housing density. However, we are beginning to see an increase in requests for housing developments in the area. That must also be coupled with further infrastructure development, especially roads, and it has been well documented that the availability of funds at the state level for doing so is limited. Lastly, it would certainly be helpful if the state ad-valorem formula for distributing sales taxes was amended to ensure that other municipalities do not get a larger share of taxes generated in the village than we do, because it is ultimately the village that will incur costs related to providing increased security, etc.
What do you feel is the most important issue facing Wesley Chapel today?
What I really feel is the most important issue facing Wesley Chapel today, for the last several years and certainly for the foreseeable future, is to deal with the explosive growth the area experienced over the last 10+ years. The village population has tripled in size over the U.S. Census years of 2000 to 2010. Part of this was growth and the building of subdivisions in the area. Another part was from voluntary annexations of other properties that have decided Wesley Chapel is “a great place to live and raise a family.” What that growth has meant is an influx of people drawn to the rural atmosphere and great Union County schools, but it also has meant that the very rural atmosphere many moved here for is changing to a more suburban atmosphere. Whether we like it or not, we are a Charlotte suburb and are more of a bedroom community; and there is nothing wrong with that. But many residents, including those that have been here for many years and those just arriving, are struggling with the blending of various cultures and customs. So, like many of our neighboring towns, we are working to become more of a community, and I think that many residents here want and need that kind of an atmosphere. But everyone has to work together to determine what we will become and how we treat one another. I really think we can get there if we are willing to not only talk to one another, but listen as well, and then be willing to come to a shared vision of what Wesley Chapel will be.