Tensions on Mooresville’s town board spiked last week.
Two commissioners clashed with Mayor Miles Atkins on Friday during an agenda briefing about a request to – once again – change the date of a public hearing to annex and extend utilities to a controversial high-density development on Transco Road. LIV Development’s 579-unit mixed-use development is the first project that a bare majority of the board recently approved for the area along the future East-West Connector that will connect Langtree Road to N.C. 115 on the south side of town.
Commissioner Gary West in Friday’s agenda briefing hinted to a pending lawsuit about the project that he said is “targeting” the three board members who have consistently voted against it.
Every vote this month related to the proposed development has split the board, requiring Atkins to break several ties. He joins Commissioners Bobby Compton, Thurman Houston and Tommy Deweese in supporting the project. Commissioners West, Eddie Dingler and Lisa Qualls oppose, citing that plans for Fire Station No. 7 and the East-West Connector – both planned to service that area – aren’t far enough along to support residential growth. They also opposed the board’s change of the area’s long-standing “employment center” zoning to “neighborhood residential.”
Atkins’ tie-breaking vote earlier this month on annexation and utilities to the area triggered a second public hearing on the matter. The board already changed the date once – from May 15 to May 1 – when Deweese, who had previously agreed to May 15, discovered he would actually be unable to attend on that date. Changing the date of a public hearing due solely to a board member’s inability to attend is uncommon, but the board voted – with Atkins breaking another tie – to change the scheduled date anyway.
In Friday’s agenda briefing, commissioners were informed that instead of holding the public hearing as expected tomorrow, May 1, they’ll be asked to change the hearing date once again – this time, to June 20. This time, the date change was the request of the applicant.
Commissioners Gary West and Eddie Dingler didn’t mince words in their disapproval, indicating potential fireworks at tomorrow’s public town board meeting.
“I have an issue with it,” said West. “I was accused of sabotaging the vote, which I’m not happy with.”
Earlier this month, West proposed that the board turn down the development until being further along with the East-West Connector to handle the additional traffic that a residential project would create. At that time, the board didn’t have bids in for the Connector; it has received them since, and town staff told commissioners that the lowest bid still leaves the town funding – or finding funding sources for – $11 million.
Of another adjustment to the public hearing date, West said: “Honestly, the board felt compelled to move this vote to accommodate a commissioner to get the outcome (other commissioners and the mayor) wanted, and I’m not happy with that. Now we’re asking to move it to Tuesday, June 20. I can’t support it.”
Dingler asked to be recognized to speak, but the mayor cut him off and began speaking over him. “Well just so y’all know, this is one issue; just save your comments for open session,” Atkins said, adding: “You’re welcome to talk right now, but we’re going to open up the public hearing (Monday), and then you can make your comments, and then whether you choose to continue or not certainly is the board’s decision.”
Dingler said the board already knows how it’s voting, whether that happens in May or June. He called the votes on the project “manipulated” and “stacked … so you could get the votes you want.”
“Everything was in the dark when you guys moved it forward then, so what’s changed now?” Dingler asked. “I don’t see why you want to move it. I think everybody on this board knows exactly how they’re voting; nothing changes.”
Then West brought up the pending lawsuit. “I also understand there’s a lawsuit now pending of certain commissioners, and it’s targeting Commissioner Qualls, Commissioner Dingler and myself; if we don’t vote to approve (the project), there’s a lawsuit pending,” he said, adding, “I will tell you: I will not be intimidated, and I will not be bullied.”
Atkins did not reply and moved immediately to the next agenda item.
The pending lawsuit West referenced includes a “legal hold” on any town documentation or communications involving the LIV Development on Transco Road. A secondary notice requests public records – including emails and text messages – from the three commissioners who have repeatedly voted against the project.
The town board’s regular monthly meeting – during which the board will vote on moving the public hearing to June 20 – is tomorrow, May 1, at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.