Local News

Hope Mills may want to consider overlay zoning to guide development, town planner says  

hope mills logoThe planning director told the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners on Monday that it may want to consider establishing an overlay zoning district to help guide development in the town.

The discussion came up after the Board of Commissioners approved the consent agenda, which included back-to-back zoning requests related to two tire businesses: Discount Tire and Mavis Tires.

That prompted smiles and laughter from some on the board.

Some board members expressed concerns about the influx of vape shops, gas stations and tire services that recently have popped up in Hope Mills. 

The town can’t legally tell a landowner what kind of business he or she can put on the property if the land is zoned for its use, said Chancer McLaughlin, director of Planning and Economic Development.

McLaughlin told the board that establishing an overlay district may be a solution to help guide growth in the town. He said he had been working on the language for such a district.

Overlay zoning is a regulatory tool that creates a special zoning district over existing zoning. It can include additional or different regulations that apply within the district.

“An overlay is a mechanism in zoning that allows the city to put a boundary on map in a particular area that helps groups like businesses,” McLaughlin said.

An overlay would allow the town to say, “it’s not that you can’t have that vape shop, you just can’t have it right here next to these rows of restaurants,’’ McLaughlin said hypothetically.

“It would help the town be more deliberate in its planning,” he said.

“Without the overlays, the businesses can come in wherever they want,” McLaughlin said.

“This helps with the quality of life in Hope Mills,” he said.

McLaughlin told CityView TODAY that the quality of life in Hope Mills is what helps drive the department’s decision-making.

“I’m always asking myself is this business or subdivision good for Hope Mills? Will it make people want to move here?” he said.

Commissioner Grilley Mitchell and Mayor Jackie Warner agreed with McLaughlin about the overlay zoning and said they were looking forward to what McLaughlin would present to the board.

Mclaughlin said the department was not trying to hinder any proposed business and its right to exist, he was trying to suggest a tool that would help the town be more deliberate in its planning.

Georgia man killed when motorcycle crashes into tree, Fayetteville police say

FPD logoA Georgia man was killed Wednesday when the motorcycle he was driving ran off the road and crashed into a tree, according to the Fayetteville Police Department.

The accident was reported about 9 a.m. in the 300 block of Airport Road.

The victim was Roberto Miguel Garcia, 30, said a police news release.

No other vehicles were involved, the release said.

City leaders call for more diversity in Dogwood Festival entertainment

fay city council logoThe executive director of the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival faced questions about her organization’s commitment to diversity as she asked the City Council for financial support.

The council voted 8-1 on Monday night to provide $15,000 to support what Executive Director Sarahgrace Snipes called the sustainability of the festival. But council members asked that Snipes report back to them with a plan of action to tackle their concerns about diversity in the festival’s entertainment lineup.

Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram cast the lone vote opposing the appropriation. Earlier in the meeting, Ingram expressed concern about a lack of diversity, agreeing with Mayor Mitch Colvin and saying, "There are a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle."

Snipes has overseen the Dogwood Festival since being hired in April 2021.

The $15,000 will be used to pay off costs of the spring festival and contribute to financial sustainability “so we do not have to dip into the savings account," she told the council.
Snipes reminded council members that the spring festival and other activities were canceled in 2020 and scaled back in 2021 because of restrictions on crowds gathering during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I started on April 19, 2021, I’ll be honest; it was my first job,” Snipes said. “I was super-excited, eager to get into the office and start planning events. But along with the job, I saw that there were many challenges that the Dogwood Festival still has to iron out, and one of them was COVID-19 and making sure that we were financially stable.”

On her first day, she said, she found out that the organization had to postpone a mini-festival that was scheduled for the following weekend.

The event was rescheduled to June 2021 and moved to Festival Park. Then the state relaxed its mass-gathering policies, which meant the minifestival could be open to public and not have to charge for tickets.

“It was quite successful,’’ Snipes said. “And might I add, we received funding from the city of Fayetteville, which contributed to its success.”

A couple of Fayetteville After Five concerts also were staged in July and August 2021. Organizers struggled with attendance at those shows, according to Snipes.

“We demonstrated a strong presence in the community while building sustainability for the winter months,” she said. “... There is no sustainable income other than sponsorships, and that depends on when sponsors choose to pay.”

The spring Dogwood Festival returned in April 2022 for its 40th edition.

City Council members Kathy Jensen and D.J. Haire voiced support for the festival.

"Dogwood Festival is our heritage. It's part of what we do," Jensen said.

Councilman Larry Wright asked Snipes if she believes this year’s festival was a success.

"Yes, I believe it was successful," she said, adding that attendance was roughly 215,000 over three days.

But Wright said he is concerned about "the diversity of people" who perform for festivalgoers.

Mayor Colvin asked Snipes what festival organizers are doing to diversify the music lineup. He said he has heard complaints about a lack of diversity of entertainment since he joined the council in 2013.

In 2022, he noted, Friday’s concert featured rock bands, Saturday’s featured country performers and Sunday’s was a band that pays tribute to the artist Prince.

“What are you doing to speak to the diversity of the community with your lineup?” Colvin asked.

Snipes said financing is a factor in that.

“My concern with expanding the nights – I would like to touch on every population in Fayetteville. Get the country night, get the rock night, get the tribute night. … And also add on another night," Snipes said. “I believe we did hip-hop in past years. I think that is an excellent idea, but my concern is that if we do not have the funding to spread into four nights, then we’re not going to be able to expand into four nights.”

Colvin asked why the festival favors rock and country artists.

“My knowledge is that is what Dogwood Festival has always done,” Snipes responded.

“That is what I wanted to draw out,” Colvin said. "You’re here today, so only your 2022 request is being considered, not historical performance. Historically, the community hasn’t really done a good job being inclusive and diverse. So what is your plan to change that? …”

Snipes said, “I personally would like to hear from the community what they would like to see. Because my goal as executive director -- and I’ve stood very firmly since my hire -- is to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for all community members to enjoy. So I am always open. I cannot change what Dogwood Festival has done historically or my predecessors have done. I am always open to hear.

“And I want to be the change for the organization,” she said.

Snipes said that in the festival’s annual operating budget, the top three expenses are the music acts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

“All the acts are close to $75,000,” she said.

Administrative costs include $108,000 for insurance, payroll, permits and facility maintenance.

Production costs of the spring festival are close to $40,000, she said.

For the fall Dogwood Festival, she said, the cost is about $30,000. The Miss Fayetteville Dogwood Festival, which this year was rescheduled to September, costs an average of $10,000 to put on.

The festival’s summer concert series averages $43,500, Snipes said.

The festival organization received $25,000 from the Tourism Development Authority of Cumberland County, Snipes said. Sponsorship income since April 2021 totals $180,000.

Over the past year, the festival has received grants in collaboration with The Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County, Snipes said.

 

Calls for more money for schools at public hearing fail to sway Cumberland commissioners

sessoms Cumberland County education leaders called for increased funding for schools Monday, June 16, during a public hearing, but the Board of Commissioners voted to pass the budget for fiscal year 2023 with no such increase.
In a meeting following the public hearing, however, the board voted to raise the salary of Vice Chair Toni Stewart by $2,000 over a previously planned increase. The measure passed 4-2 with Commissioners Jimmy Keefe and Michael Boose voting in opposition.

Before that vote, the board considered a similar pay increase for all commissioners, except Chair Glenn Adams, but that motion failed 3-3. Boose, Keefe and Stewart voted in favor while Adams and Commissioners Larry Lancaster and Jeannette Council were against the plan.
Commissioner Charles Evans was not present for either vote or the public hearing.

Under the newly adopted budget, Adams will earn an annual salary of $31,100, and Vice Chair Stewart will earn $25,297. The rest of the commissioners will receive $23,297.
It’s an increase from last year’s budget, when commissioners approved a chair salary of $30,194 while the rest of the commissioners earned $22,619.
This is not including a 3% and 4% cost-of-living raise on the fiscal year 2022 and 2023 base salaries, respectively.

The cost-of-living raises also apply to county employees
The board did not discuss comments during the public hearing that called for increased education funding.
Commissioners did not immediately respond to emailed questions from Carolina Public Press concerning the votes for salary increases and calls for increased education funding in the public hearing.

The board approved $84.3 million in funding for Cumberland County Schools, lower than the $88.2 million requested by the school system, but the approved funding is an increase of $1.3 million from last year.
Commissioners also approved a $95,000 work study that will examine how to best retain workers amid what County Manager Amy Cannon had described at previous meetings as an employees’ market.
The approved budget did not increase property taxes or solid waste fees.

Calls for increased school funding

During the public hearing, education leaders in Cumberland County spoke to commissioners, advocating for the $88.2 million in the school board’s original request.
Among them was Cumberland Board of Education member Charles McKellar.

“I come from the business world, and I know the responsibilities of any organization,” McKellar said. “You have to plan for the future.”
While McKellar had previously voted against budgets recommended by the majority of the Board of Education, he said he supported this year’s request.

“I’m in total support of this year’s (school) budget, and the reason is it’s been simplified,” McKellar said. “You can understand where the money’s going.”
Heather Kaiser, a schoolteacher and president of the Cumberland County Association of Educators, said the budget decisions made by the Board of Commissioners will have a “lasting and far-reaching impact” on students, teachers and the community as a whole.

“Those of us with our boots on the ground need you to know that expecting Cumberland County Schools to continue to do more with less is not the way forward,” Kaiser said. “We cannot make progress and positively impact children under those conditions.”
Cynthia Brent, chair of the Fayetteville NAACP’s education committee, said more funding was needed to address how some students are falling behind academically. She noted that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction had classified 23 schools within the Cumberland County system as low-performing schools.

“The pandemic has exposed the need for additional resources,” Brent said.

“These resources include additional social workers, counselors, nurses and teachers assistants and also includes access to broadband, high-quality child care, after-school child care, quality summer programs and a committed community.”

Leslie Craig, a schoolteacher at Max Abbott Middle School, said school staff needed more income to pay for increasing costs due to inflation, particularly housing.
Craig cited her personal experience with the high cost of housing. She told commissioners that her rent had increased by $250 in the past year and that more affordable housing was not available to her.
According to Apartment List, a nationwide apartment listing service that also collects rental data, the average monthly rent in Cumberland County has increased from $995 two years ago to more than $1,300 last month.

“If teachers and support staff cannot meet their daily life needs for themselves and their families, particularly for housing, how can they stay in their jobs?” Craig said.
Per state requirements, the new budget that commissioners approved includes a new minimum wage of $15 an hour for certain school employees, as well as a 2.5% increase for anyone already at that pay grade.

Changes to budget

Some changes were made to the budget proposal that was presented last month after a few weeks of deliberation.
This includes $30,000 and $3,000 in additional funding for Cumberland HealthNet and the county’s Vision Resource Center, respectively.
To account for this, $33,000 in funding has been taken from the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County.

Hope Mills adopts budget; tax rate unchanged

hope mills logo HOPE MILLS — The Hope Mills Board of Commissioners on Monday, June 26, approved the fiscal 2022-23 budget with a few adjustments to the wording of some entries.

The $15.5 million budget keeps the property tax rate at 46 cents per $100 valuation.

No one spoke during a public hearing on the proposed spending plan.

The budget was approved unanimously. Commissioner Bryan Marley was absent on official business but sent an internal note to Mayor Jackie Warner informing her of his confidence in the proposed budget should the board vote on it, Warner told commissioners.

“I think it's a really good proposal,” Town Manager Scott Meszaros said. “It’s a good framework to get us moving forward.”

Before the vote, several commissioners expressed concern about the wording in part of the document that said departments had the authority to move budget funds around without having to bring it before the board.

Mayor Pro Tem Kenjuana McCray asked the town manager to explain that section. Drew Holland, the town’s finance director, stepped in to answer the question. Holland said a department can do an internal budget amendment without having to bring it to the board for a vote.

“It’s an internal adjustment and doesn’t increase the overall budget and it's not moving it from one department to another,’’ Holland said. “It just moves funds within the department. It’s a standard and has been in our budget every year.”

According to the wording in the budget, the departments were not required to inform the board about moving the funds.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen that language within a budget,” Commissioner Grilley Mitchell said.

The wording also said the funds could be moved “without limitations.” The ambiguous wording and “without limitations” bothered McCray, Mitchell and Commissioner Joanne Scarola.

Holland assured the board that the movement of funds was signed off by the head of the department. Mitchell said that’s not what the language states and said ”it’s very ambiguous.”

Scarola agreed with Mitchell, saying it didn’t matter to her that it has always been that way.

“That’s not very transparent,” Scarola said.

The board agreed the wording needed to be changed before approving the budget. The town’s legal counsel said the board could still approve the budget with those noted changes without having the new wording in place.

The commissioners agreed and approved the budget.

The board also met in closed session for personnel and contract discussion and attorney-client advice.

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