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Public’s Input is Still Wanted: More Meetings Ahead Concerning Development Along the Catawba River.

July 20, 2008

By Steve Lyttle, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

Jul. 20–A city planner says residents will get another chance to get involved in helping develop a comprehensive plan for growth in western Mecklenburg County.

Residents had been invited to a pair of meetings July 8 at Shady Brook Baptist Church, but a severe thunderstorm curtailed the first of two workshops that evening and postponed the second.

The storm knocked out power to the church, on Belmeade Drive near Interstate 485 and Moores Chapel Road.

“We were able to talk informally with some of the people who came to the second workshop, but without any power, it was impossible to do the entire sessions,” says Kathy Cornett, a Charlotte city planning official.

The meetings were designed to get public input on the Catawba Area Plan, which will guide development in the area along the Catawba River in both western Mecklenburg and eastern Gaston counties, including near the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

“We are looking for volunteers to be involved in stakeholders’ meetings, which will begin later this year,” Cornett told a group of about 200 people who packed the sanctuary at Shady Brook Baptist Church for the July 8 meeting. “But there will be plenty of opportunities for public input, in addition to the stakeholders’ meeting.”

That was before the storm arrived, ending the session before the public got a chance to talk with representatives of several organizations who have a stake in the plan — the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Mecklenburg Park and Recreation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Gaston County.

Cornett says planners sent surveys and letters recently to about 1,700 residents in the affected area. Some early results have given officials an idea of what people like and dislike about western Mecklenburg.

“Some of the strengths listed are Interstate 485 and the area’s rural nature,” Cornett says. “But they see traffic congestion and the loss of tree cover as problems.”

Cornett says officials hope to have the rescheduled meeting within the next few weeks.

That will be followed this winter by the stakeholders’ meetings, and then by another public session next spring.

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