City Council Recap – July 25

On Tuesday, the City Council had their Regular Session for the month of July.  It was a packed agenda, but there was a lot of unanimous agreement on issues that came to a vote, some important discussion about how building owners should be held accountable and business owners should be treated (and accommodated) when it comes to downtown development decisions, and an awkward encounter involving the Mayor once again stepping out of his lane.

So, just as we plan to do after every Council meeting, let’s dive in…

It’s no secret that we have an issue with some Downtown building owners in our town.  While there are plenty of building owners who are actively working on their buildings or seeking tenants, part of the 70% vacancy rate in Downtown is due to building owners who refuse to do anything with their properties.  Left sitting vacant, going without much-needed repairs, and with zero sense of urgency to contribute to Downtown development, these building owners must be held accountable where necessary.  And this week, one specific issue like this came before the Council – with one added complication: a building that is set to be condemned, yet has a small business operating in it that is in fact contributing greatly to our Downtown scene.

The building at 124 W Mountain Street has been an issue for years.  The state of disrepair that it is in not only presents a hazard in some ways, but is also impacting adjoining buildings where active investments are occurring.  Instead of making any efforts to rectify the situation, the building owner has sat on his hands.  Because of that, the City Council passed an ordinance ordering the owner to make repairs, with an understanding that the Chief Building Inspector will condemn the building in 30 days.

Unfortunately, a great downtown business is operating in the part of the building that is not the problem, and they are now forced to vacate with little time to make plans.  Uncommon Artisans has been a welcome and fresh addition to our downtown business scene, providing a selection of locally-crafted items, food, and fresh coffee.  This business also represents several other local craftsmen and businesses.  The owner of that business now has her hands tied – with a requirement that she vacate within 30 days and find a new location either in Kings Mountain or outside of it.

While we applaud the Council for finally beginning to take action against these problematic building owners after many years of also sitting on their hands, it is not an ideal situation when we are displacing a business that is actively contributing to our downtown scene.

Fortunately, a recently-formed non-profit group called KM Forward is in a position to provide some assistance.  KM Forward was formed – and in part funded by the City – to allow local business and community leaders to make improvements, offer assistance, and contribute to local business growth in ways that the City has historically failed.  

On Tuesday, KM Forward’s contract with the City was modified to offer assistance to business owners who might be impacted by condemnation.  The idea is that the City would match a grant provided by KM Forward to assist these businesses with relocation expenses.  This is a great thing! And exactly the role that a group like KM Forward should be playing in our town.  In the past, business owners have not received the level of communication, cooperation, and assistance from the City that a private-public partnership like KM Forward is capable of providing. 

Unsurprisingly, the Mayor saw this obviously great thing and decided that it was a great opportunity for him to sidestep the City Manager and step out of his lane.  The Mayor, who by the way is not a Constitutional lawyer, said that he had an issue with the idea that the City would match a grant to assist with relocation expenses in this situation.  So, he reached out to an attorney with an outside organization and whom, we’re sure, did not have all the facts to receive an “opinion.”  Mayor Neisler said that it was because he “didn’t want to do anything illegal,” but judging from the contempt and frustration he has displayed for the new City Manager and Administration, we wonder if other wants and desires are in play…

Fortunately, the City Attorney – who does have all of the facts and context – issued his own opinion.  He stated that he believes the specific situation is in fact Constitutional and provided his own reasoning.

The grant passed unanimously.  As a reminder, the Mayor does not have a vote.  As a further reminder, the Mayor has very little role to play in matters such as these.

Apart from this specific issue, there were a few other items of note:

  • A public hearing was scheduled for August 29th to consider further text amendments to the City Unified Developed Ordinance regarding such things as district establishment, lot and building standards, and planned development districts.
  • Clarification of members to the Kings Mountain Housing Committee
  • The adoption of a Water and Wastewater System Development Fee Study.
  • The adoption of a resolution approving the major subdivision play for the Pinnacle Park Subdivision.

All of these passed unanimously. 

5 responses to “City Council Recap – July 25

  1. I am pleased to hear that Uncommon Artisans will receive help in their relocation. I love the shop, and hope she can find a spot in town. The building condemnation issue should have been addressed and resolved before it became such an issue. And about the mayor, why is only one person running against him? Thank you for providing the meeting information.

  2. In response to the article, it is evident that the grant is a positive step forward, showing the city’s commitment to addressing certain issues. However, it’s regrettable that the grant’s impact might be limited due to the exorbitant rent prices in downtown buildings. The fact that the lowest asking rent for space in the area stands at $3500 highlights the challenges faced by businesses seeking affordable accommodations.

    Another concerning aspect is the ownership of vacant or dilapidated buildings by those in positions of power within the city. This raises questions about transparency and accountability. It’s essential for the city’s leaders to be proactive in finding solutions that benefit the community at large rather than exacerbating the existing problem.

    To truly alleviate the expense and promote economic growth, it’s crucial for the authorities to consider various measures. These may include exploring ways to incentivize property owners to offer more reasonable rents and encouraging creative ideas to revitalize vacant storefronts.

    Overall, while the grant is a positive step, there is still much work to be done to address the underlying issues and make a meaningful impact on the community’s well-being. Collaborative efforts from all stakeholders, including city officials and property owners, are necessary to create a thriving downtown area accessible to all.

  3. I have noticed that most Business downtown stay a month or two and leave. If we have a 70% vacancy rate and rent average of $3,500, I have my answer. No one can put a small business in that can pay that kind of rent in a small town. Is it not better to get a smaller amount of money to let the business have a chance to bring in customers? Is it possible to line up some great renters with the promise of lower rent rates the first year to get established. Is it possible to use the money from KM Forward fund to assist the owners to bring up the conditions of the buildings . If you could line up the Business owners for uptown and get the renters to agree on really low or no rent for just one year, it would give them a chance to get established. With 70% vacancy what do they have to lose. Choose a City design that is working in other small towns, specialty shops, sweet shops, Antiques. Get them all to open at the same time, cut a ribbon and give it 1 year to thrive. So as not to be taken advantage of let them sign a contract for the first year of little to no rent and then they must remain in the location for 2 years. Somebody has got to co-ordinate and instead of having one business open and close every few months, fill the stores and let the whole town open with all the stores filled with unique shops. Talk to the building owners , you have 70% vacancy. Give the renters a chance to grow that business and you have rent coming in again. Take a chance. One year of little to no rent could put a business in that will last decades.

  4. Why was so much money and time invested in the Mountain Street “Streetscapes” and then condemn a building right in the center of the project? When is Patriots Park going to be self sufficient (income vs expenses) instead of everyone having to pay taxes to support it when my guess it benefits less than 30% of the taxpayers? Lastly, why have we been told over at least the last 5 years that the city is in such great financial shape to all at once we get a new city manager who claims it is necessary to increase the city budget by 20% ?

    Looking forward to these questions being answered and to see if anyone one else agrees with me or am I the only one who feels this way.

    Thank you

    1. It is my belief that the budget was in [good financial order] all those years because they didn’t want to spend any money on infrastructure. Thus looking good to the citizens and not raising taxes, but this can only go on for so long and now something has to be done drastically.

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