Dale Stewart, of Aberdeen, Carolina and Western Railroad addresses the commission. PHOTO BY DEREK LACEY

Two agenda items, focused on economic development in Mint Hill, took center stage at the town commission’s meeting November 15.

A public hearing was held on a petition filed by Albemarle Road Associates for a change of conditions. ARA filed the petition to create a list of by-right uses for industrial rail development for a 65-acre section of the Clear Creek Business Park.

“This is about industrial development from the standpoint of bringing jobs and tax base to the Mint Hill area,” said Dale Stewart, of Aberdeen, Carolina and Western Railroad.

The petition would be a step toward streamlining the process for new industry to come to the business park, separating an area for rail use only, and preparing that area for rail-based industries.

The location is ideal for the region, which has few locations that offer this type of rail industry potential, and provides access to Hwy 24/27 and I485.

The plan would allow for the board to approve a list of industries deemed non-offensive(smell,noise, smoke, etc.) that would be able to acquire the land and permission to operate without board approval.

Also during the meeting, discussion continued on the CONNECT Consortium. Council members discussed whether or not to be a part of the program.

At the beginning of the consideration, commissioner Tina Ross made a motion to adopt the program, which was seconded by commissioner Brenda McRae, only for the purposes of discussion.

Commissioner Ross expressed the view that data from Mint Hill is going to be used anyway, so the town should have a say in the proceedings of CONNECT, to which commissioner Lloyd Austin, a board member of the Centralina Council of Governments, said that Mint Hill would have a say either way, since he is on the board.

Austin expressed concern that Mint Hill’s involvement in the program could have negative repercussions in the future.

“It scares me that there could be some strings later on attached or that they could come back at some point and say, ‘You’ve approved this and you’re a part of it, so why don’t you do this,’ and it may be something that we don’t want to do,” Austin said.

Mayor Ted Biggers expressed similar concern.

“I am concerned that if Mint Hill becomes a part of this, then sometime in the future, that we may regret it,” Biggers said. “That there will be strings attached, that they will be financial strings, and I’m just not comfortable with it.”

At the last commission meeting, Cornelius town commissioner Lynette Rinker spoke to the commission about why the town of Cornelius refused to be part of CONNECT, citing concern that the Centralina Council of Governments or the federal government would be able to dictate zoning and other actions to the town commission, because of their participation in the consortium.

“I felt like her comments were almost of a conspiracy theory genre,” Ross said.

The commission moved to defer a decision on joining the consortium to an undefined future date, passing 4-1, with all commissioners except Mickey Ellington approving.

In other matters

• A public hearing was held on a petition filed by Donald Forbis Jr. for a text amendment to allow gyms in the B-D district.

• The commission moved to appoint Michelle Farrar as interim town clerk for six months, appointing town manager Brian Welch the power to remove the “interim” title upon the successful completion of that time.

• Minutes from the October 25 commission meeting were approved, and the tax collector’s report was accepted.