With the arrival of new City Manager Jim Palenick, the management and transparency of City business has taken a dramatic turn in a professional direction. Beginning with the establishment of a regular public session for Council workshops – rather than behind closed doors – Mr. Palenick is showing the Council and the community a new and better way of doing business.
In the monthly work sessions scheduled for the second Thursday of each month, the City Manager leads off with an update of private and public development projects. This is valuable, as it puts everyone on equal standing with correct and factual information, eliminating the information power games played by several of our elected officials and previous city management. And it is only right that the public knows what is happening – as well as how it may impact them.
Last evening, we learned that the legal issues around the Casino’s operations have been settled, and that there is now nothing stopping the Catawba Nation from proceeding with site development. Additionally, the City Manager reviewed with Council a proposed hotel on Highway 161, new duplexes being build on Battleground Ave., the effort to establish road connectivity among several proposed developments in the Kings Mountain Boulevard area, and changes to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that will streamline efforts for large Planned Unit Developments as well as the adoption of Board of Adjustment responsibilities by the current City Council.
Additionall, City Staff discussed the proposed system development fees and a three-year exception for single family detached housing. These fees will be applied to hotels, multifamily and single-family housing, with estimated being around $3600 per door – which is charged by the City and put into a fund to expand and maintain city utility infrastructure. The three-year moratorium allows single family home builders to avoid this fee if they meet several requirements – all of which are designed to ensure quality, aesthetically-pleasing homes. This fee waiver is critical in a time of rising land and construction costs which are driving up the cost of housing in a time when we need more quality, market-rate development in our town. If the community is going to encourage housing construction, we do not need to add additional fees and costs that make it more prohibitive – and eventually leave us with fewer houses than we need.
Other topics in this work session were the development of four large warehouse buildings in the proposed Pinnacle Park, across from the Holiday Inn off I-85. These buildings would represent nearly one million square feet of new construction and countless jobs. While new jobs are great, where will these workers live if we cannot build housing? Housing continues to be a struggle in Kings Mountain due to the actions and positions of several long-term council members – who cannot see the need for new housing past their large manicured front lawns.
In regards to the Albemarle Lithium project, the City Manager disclosed that the City has retained several experts to consult with the City on how to manage and handle the numerous requests from Albermarle as they seek to put a large mining operation in the middle of our community. The strategic vision of Mr. Palenick will serve the city well as he is humble enough to ask for outside guidance in dealing with this large public corporation whose first responsibility is to their shareholders, not the City of Kings Mountain. The lithium mine can be a tremendous opportunity for the greater good of the community if handled well, and the goal is to make it a winning solution for the community as well as for Albemarle.