Local News

County Commissioners consider best use of HUD grant to help homeless; vote on rezoning requests

cumberland county logo Frustrations among Cumberland County commissioners over the cost of affordable housing came to a head Jan. 17 when they were given a presentation recommending the spending of federal dollars for homeless services.

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners met in a packed Room 118 of the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse.
Dee Taylor, the county’s Community Development director, briefed commissioners on a proposed Community Development HOME - ARP allocation plan and asked the board to conduct a public hearing to allow for public comment on the allocation plan. However, no one showed up to speak at the public hearing.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Home Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program grant allocated $1,435,021 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds to Cumberland County. The money is to be used for activities that benefit qualifying individuals and families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or in other vulnerable populations.

Before the county’s DSS can spend any of the HOME-ARP money, it had to prepare a plan that details how the money will be allocated for eligible services, which include building affordable housing, rental assistance, support services such as counseling and legal advice, and paying for a non-congregate shelter. The DSS had to consult with housing and service providers whose clients qualify for the services.

Responses given by service providers and residents are being considered as to how to best use the HOME-ARP funds to meet the needs of the qualifying populations, according to Taylor.
Taylor said DSS drew up a survey to get suggestions on how the funds should be used and identified priorities. The survey received 23 responses. DSS also held one-on-one virtual meetings with 10 service providers.

The majority of the respondents, 44%, opted for construction of affordable housing, 20% recommended rental assistance, and 36% recommended the acquisition or development of non-congregate shelters. Non-congregate shelter is the term used for emergency shelters that provide accommodations such as motel rooms, and limits the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless.

Community Development completed a draft of the plan and made it available to the public for comment and review between Jan. 13 and Jan. 27. A public hearing on Jan. 17 had to be held during the comment period. After the public has had a chance to review the draft, the final copy of the plan will be submitted to the Board of Commissioners at the Feb. 6 regular meeting, where the board is expected to approve the plan to be submitted to HUD.

Commissioner Jimmy Keefe again brought up the subject of how much money the county spends on new construction of affordable housing. He suggested taking a new approach to providing homes for the homeless.

“The old way of doing things is not working,” he told Taylor.

“We’re spending a lot of money but not getting much of an impact to help the homeless. It doesn’t look like we’re making progress,” he told Taylor.

Commissioners Veronica Jones and Michael Boose agreed. Both suggested buying existing housing or apartments and foregoing new and more expensive construction. Vice Chairman Glenn Adams suggested the creation of a committee that could help determine whether the county builds new or buys existing property.

“I’d be happy to sit down and discuss this further,” Taylor replied.

Rezoning cases

The board also voted unanimously to grant a rezoning from A1 Agricultural District to RR Rural Residential/CZ Conditional Zoning District or to a more restrictive zoning district for approximately 106.75 acres located east of Hummingbird Place and west of Maxwell Road. The applicant is George Rose who is making the request on behalf of Astrakel International LTD, the property owner.

The developers are planning to build 168 stick-built homes on the site. The first phase of the development includes 54 lots, and the second phase will be the remaining 114 lots. Initially, the builders wanted to have 232 lots measuring 15,000 square feet but opted for the lesser amount of 168.

Rose and his attorney, Scott Flowers, spoke in favor of the rezoning; however, three area residents spoke against the proposed subdivision because of the lack of drainage surrounding the property.
Robin Bridges, who lives on Stedman Road, said the soil on the property is not conducive for a large development and would result in flooding. She presented a petition with 283 signatures against the development. “It’s a poor site and poor plan,” she told commissioners.

The Cumberland County Planning Board voted 6-3 to deny the rezoning request at the Nov. 15 meeting. However, the Planning and Inspections staff recommended approval of the rezoning because the request is consistent with the Eastover Area Land Use Plan, which calls for “Rural Density Residential” at this location. The planning staff also finds that the request is reasonable and in the public interest as the requested district is compatible to and in harmony with the surrounding land use activities and zoning. The planning board disagreed with the staff’s findings, according to the minutes of the meeting.

The board also voted to rezone from A1 Agricultural District to R40A Residential District or to a more restrictive zoning district for about 4.01acres located at 2140 Rich Walker Road and an abutting parcel. Bertha Elliott is the owner making the application.

In this case, the Planning Board recommended approval of the rezoning request from A1 Agricultural District to R40A Residential District at the Dec. 20 meeting. The Planning and Inspections staff also recommended approval of the rezoning request. The Planning staff determined the request to be consistent with the Eastover Area Land Use Plan, which calls for “Rural Density Residential” at this location. Staff also finds that the request is reasonable and in the public interest.

And the board approved the rezoning from CD Conservancy District to A1 Agricultural District or to a more restrictive zoning district for about 2 acres located on a portion of the abutting parcel east of 7632 Sim Canady Road. Bradley Allee and Lynne Gralewski are the owners making the request.

The Planning Board recommended approval of the rezoning request at its Dec. 20 meeting. The Planning staff also recommended approval because the request is consistent with the South-Central Land Use Plan, which calls for “farmland” at this location. Staff also finds that the request is reasonable and in the public interest.

The board also opted not to consider a funding agreement with Hillside - FMHA LLC for the rehabilitation of Hillside Manor Apartments. The county released a “request for proposal” in early spring of 2021 seeking applications from eligible agencies to provide public services (human services), public facilities / infrastructure, and affordable housing developments, according to Taylor.

A departmental selection committee reviewed all proposals and Hillside – FMHA was one of the agencies selected to receive funding for substantial rehabilitation of 32 units at Hillside Manor, located at 1920 Rosehill Road. Community Development wants to enter into a contract with the agency for a funding amount not to exceed $441,020, according to Taylor’s memo. Development Block Grant funds are available for this project, according to Taylor.

The staff recommended that the board approve the funding agreement with Hillside-FMHA in the amount not to exceed $441,020 for the rehabilitation of 32 units at Hillside Manor Apartments.
However, some board members balked at the funding arrangement with Adams suggesting some of the money could be coming from the city of Fayetteville. “They get a whole lot more money than we do,” he said.

Adams motioned to approve the funding agreement but could not get a second. Keefe countered with a motion to deny the funding request. The motion passed unanimously.

Highland Centre renovated for new retailers

8 Renovations are underway on the former Stein Mart department store to make way for new retailers, including the relocation of Fleishman’s Tiny Town children’s store and an Ace Hardware store scheduled to open in March.

Stein Mart closed all 281 of its stores in August 2020, and the space at Highland Centre on Raeford Road has been vacant since then.
Tiny Town, located at 3015 Fort Bragg Road, opened in 1951, according to its website. It will settle into space adjoining the new Ace Hardware, said Highland Centre co-owner Alex Thompson.

A third new tenant at the shopping center, School Tools, will move from its Robeson Street location near downtown to the east wing of Highland Centre, according to Thompson, who shares ownership of the property with his sister, Lisa Thompson.

Harris Teeter is the anchor store at the shopping center, which also includes a Hallmark store, post office and Pet Supermarket.
Lori’s Ace Home & Hardware is scheduled to open March 14 in Suite 24A, part of the Stein Mart space.

“This community really deserves and needs an Ace,” said Lori Tracy Stobbe, who will own and operate the business with her husband, Nate Stobbe. “What Ace provides is that quality product but really great customer service and the convenience. We hope to build a really great, helpful team of employees.”

The Stobbes plan to hire about 15 people for the store, including for the positions of store manager, sales associate and cashier. For more information on jobs, visit https://nowhiring.com/loris-ace/. A grand opening is planned for the first weekend in May, including grilling and power equipment demonstrations.

The Stobbes relocated to Fayetteville from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, in June.

Before the move, Lori Stobbe worked roughly 25 years in marketing and public relations. Nate Stobbe has owned or run manufacturing companies after starting out as a journeyman carpenter. She said he has extensive knowledge of construction and manufacturing.

“We started this venture together,” she said. “We came down here specially to open this Ace store here in Fayetteville.”

In September, they opened Ace Handyman Services, also in Highland Centre. It will merge with the hardware store when that opens.

The former Stein Mart space will provide the couple with about 18,000 square feet, plus an additional 5,000 square feet for a garden center, Stobbe said.
Alex and Lisa Thompson's father, Joe Thompson, was one of the original partners in Highland Centre. The landlord is Thompson Properties.

Renovations on the property are ongoing. Once the three new retailers are open, Alex Thompson said, about 6,900 square feet will remain available to rent.
Lori Stobbe said she and her husband are often asked why they picked Fayetteville for their new business.

“The first decision was North Carolina,” she said. “We wanted to move to a warmer climate and near the ocean. We felt like it was a comfortable place to land. People are all friendly. The climate is fantastic. Once we decided on North Carolina, then we had to figure what was going to be the best site to open an Ace Hardware store. That takes a while to find that sweet spot. You want to make sure it's a good fit. And that it fits into your financial model as well, of course.”

She said they looked at areas around the state and found the old Stein Mart space in Fayetteville.

“We walked through that and the space looked perfect. We were able to drive around Fayetteville a lot (and see) where the retail was and wasn't. It's a pretty large city,” she said. “This Raeford Road is very busy all day long, all evening long. This just felt like the sweet spot."

Because Lori's Ace Home & Hardware will be a large store, she said, it will include sections for grilling and patio furniture; home decor and gifts; and toys and games for kids and adults.

“We are local,” Stobbes said. “We live here; we are based here. We are not corporate-owned. We want … to have it be a good addition to the community. We’re going to be listening to what people want when they come in. ‘Is there something that you need that we don’t have?’ We’re going to be really open to that type of feedback.”

Taxpayers reminded of Jan. 31 deadline

tax time N1804P17009H 1 The Cumberland County Tax Administration is reminding residents that Jan. 31 is the deadline for the 2023 annual property tax listing period.

 Listing forms must be updated, signed and returned and must be postmarked no later than Jan. 31 to avoid the 10% late listing penalty, the office said in a release.

Listing forms may be obtained by going online to cumberlandcountync.gov and clicking on the “Tax’’ button. Download listing forms by clicking on “Forms & Publications.’’ Listing forms may also be obtained in person at the Tax Administration Office on the fifth floor of the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse, 117 Dick St.

Forms may be mailed to Cumberland County Tax Administration, P.O. Box 449, Fayetteville, NC 28302 or dropped off at Room 530 on the fifth floor of the courthouse, the release said.

Tax listings and forms may also be dropped off at box beside the U.S. Postal Service mailboxes in the rear parking lot of the courthouse facing Cool Spring and Russell streets, the release said.

Taxpayers may also make payments (checks only) using the drop box outside Room 530 near the customer service entrance of Tax Administration, the release said.

For more information, call 910-678-7507 or visit co.cumberland.nc.us/departments/tax. The email address for tax questions is taxweb@cumberlandcountync.gov.

Spring Lake board to get financial update

Town of Spring Lake logo The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen is expected to hear a financial update from the Local Government Commission during its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Jan. 23.

David Erwin, the town finance officer and accounting and financial management advisor for the Department of the State Treasurer, is slated to give the midyear report on the town’s financial status, including revenues and expenditures.

The board hasn’t received an update on the state of the town’s finances since October.

Alderman Raul Palacios said over the weekend that he is anticipating asking about the 2022 audit status and the 2023 budget timeline.

 Erwin told the board in the fall that the audit might not be completed by the Dec. 1 deadline because they were having to meticulously check records and had to bring on a third person to help the process.

Taking ownership of financial matters, including completing the 2022 fiscal year audit and participating in the 2023 budget process, were among the goals for Alderman Marvin Lackman and Mayor Pro Tem Robyn Chadwick as well.

The Local Government Commission took over Spring Lake’s finances in October 2021 amid concerns of potential budget deficits, longstanding fiscal disarray and an investigation of missing money.

 The Local Government Commission and the board have yet to set budget workshops for the new year.

Also on the agenda is discussion of the interlocal sales tax agreement between the county municipalities and Cumberland County.

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners has proposed changing the sales tax collection method from per capita to ad valorem, which would cost each municipality in the county tens of thousands to several million dollars a year. The current agreement, which has been in effect since 2003, expires on June 30.

At the last board meeting, Mayor Kia Anthony said the mayors in Cumberland County would like to see the agreement postponed for another five years in order for towns to be able to prepare for potential money the municipalities will lose. She said the consensus among mayors is that no one is ready for the change and that Spring Lake would be positioned to lose $1.4 million in sales tax dollars every year.

“This is a very big deal that is going to affect all of Cumberland County,’’ Anthony said at the meeting on Jan. 8.

Anthony said the proposed change in the sales tax collection method does not account for a global pandemic and two significant floods in the last several years.

The board is also expected to discuss abandoned properties within town limits and damaged/missing road signs as well as accept a donation of a generator from the town of Hope Mills.

The board meets at 6 p.m. at the Spring Lake Municipal Building in the Grady Howard conference room.

Fire, police occupy new Public Safety building

hope mills logo The Hope Mills Board of Commissioners on Monday, Jan. 23 is expected to hear a request to approve a change order for the new Public Safety building from architect Scott Garner.

 The board meets at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The change order, listed at $2,545, will be the building's 12th, according to material in the agenda packet. A memo states this is a period of adjustment in the new building and requires coordination. The Fire and Police Departments have moved in and occupy the building. The old firehouse was scheduled for demolition on Jan. 21.

During the adjustment period, several items were needed, such as fail-safe hardware for doors and an adapter for the telephone system to interface with the intercom, the memo states.

 The cost of the adapter is $2,054 and the hardware for the doors is $2,156.

A part of the change order covers reimbursement to the contractor in the amount of $1,835. The contractor was briefly responsible for the building’s utilities. Duke Energy has since transferred the account to the town.

Originally, the total of the change order was $13,516. The department received a credit for TV brackets and the water and sewer taps were reused which avoided the cost of new tap fees, the memo states. As a result, a $10,971 credit was applied. This credit brought the total cost down to $2,545.

The board also is scheduled to hold a public hearing on a voluntary annexation of the Crosspointe Church property at 7050 Rockfish Road. If the noncontiguous annexation is approved, staff would be authorized to begin the initial zoning process to designate the development under the C2(P) Planned Service Retail District.

Under new business, the board is expected to discuss direction regarding the program for the chapel.

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