Recent Mint Hill Town Hall Meeting Gets Contentious

Mint Hill Town Hall Building.
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The Mint Hill Board of Commissioners recently had a meeting on August 16th to review some open agenda items to complete the summer’s business.  These items were basically routine to accept tax collector’s settlement for fiscal year 2018, accept July tax collector’s report, approval to finance police and public works vehicles.

There was an approval given by the Board of Commissioners for permitted uses and discussions regarding the rezoning to permit a planned residential community up to 81 lots located west of Walter Nelson Road, west of Twilight Drive and south of Birch Hill Road.  The community proposal from Meritage Homes would be named Heron Creek if approved.  There were questions offered by concerned citizens about traffic patterns, the developer did not propose a connection to Idlewild Road or Lebanon Road which is not in their current plan.  Assume there will be further discussion, growth in the area is having an impact in the community pertaining to traffic congestion.  Many residents have expressed legitimate concerns about Mint Hill going down the same road as Matthews with major congestion challenges due to rapid growth.

Mint Hill Athletic Park schematic. (Town of Mint Hill)
Stadium site plan. (Town of Mint Hill)

The primary issue remains the bond referendums on the ballot for the November election.  The $3 million bond is for renovation of the Bain Academy, and the $15 million bond is for Parks and Recreation.  The meeting became contentious between Mayor Ted Biggers and resident Karen Trauner who posed several reasonable questions about the need for a new 2,500 seat baseball stadium.  The bond also includes funds for five multi-use athletic fields including walking trails and other improvements at the Mint Hill athletic facility located on Brief Road.

Trauner comments included a concern as to why the original proposal for a 750 seat stadium has grown to 2,500.  She had questions about possible cost overruns, who would be responsible for scheduling stadium events, who would bear the cost of maintenance, security and upkeep.

Bain Academy vicinity site. (Town of Mint Hill)

The Mayor’s response was quick and with a sharp tone.  He mentioned the board and town management devoted a lot of time and effort into the bond proposal and sought public input.  Also, the town has a long history of fiscal responsibility and sound management practices.  A public hearing was held during the July meeting and there was only support from the attendees with no one objecting to the bond proposal.  “We do things here in a systematic fashion, a professional fashion,” said Mayor Biggers.  “We manage our funds very well, and we built this town hall under budget, on time and we paid cash for it.  We did the same thing with the police department.  We are not a hap-hazard town.”

He continued, “I disagree with you wholeheartedly that this has not been advertised.  We have had repeated public meetings.  Everyone has had an opportunity to speak.  Not all these funds are going to a baseball stadium, there are other fields involved. The money will be spread out, it will benefit all the citizens of this town and our children of this town.  Mint Hill is a hotbed of sports for children.  If the town approves these bonds, it will not only be a source of pride for the citizens, but it will be a source of recreation for all our citizens.  If the town approves these bonds, we will use them for the purposes stated.  I’m excited about it.”

Perhaps it would be prudent for the town to provide a breakdown of the $15 million bond.  Citizens should understand how the funds will be distributed.  How much of the $15 million bond is for the stadium, what funds are allocated to the multi-purpose fields and improvements.  This would be beneficial for transparency and full disclosure.  A bundled proposal is always suspect and raises questions.

Stadium location at Veterans Memorial Park. (Town of Mint Hill)

Residents should be aware there will be a property tax increase if these bonds are approved.  There will be an increase of $0.03 to $0.05 per $100 valuation added to the current $0.27 per $100 valuation.  Therefore, a $200,000 property would expect a tax increase between $60 and $100, $300,000 property $90 to $150, $400,000 property $120 to $200 annually for the bonds.

Matthews businessman Alain Lillie has agreed to attract high caliber baseball to Mint Hill.  Lillie reached a tentative lease agreement with the Mint Hill Board of Commissioners at the August 16th meeting that would bring a Coastal Plain League baseball franchise to the town.  The CPL is a summer collegiate baseball league that features some of the best college players across the country.  The team plans on playing 26 regular season games at the stadium which has changed the location to unused land at Veterans Memorial Park.

It has been reported Lillie will pay the town $50,000 annually for the first five years of the 10 year lease agreement and $55,000 per year for the remainder of the contract.  Therefore, his obligation is $525,000 total.  Lillie who once was employed by the San Francisco Giants and owned a minor league affiliate, certainly has experience operating a sports franchise.

Lillie will have first rights to any other events held at the stadium during the course of a year.  He will also have first selection rights from May 25th to August 15th each year of the contract.  These dates must be requested by March 30th annually.

Meanwhile, the town has plans to host other events at the facility that could include high school baseball games, tournaments, American Legion baseball, concerts, food and beverage events, cultural events and ceremonies.

For more information please go to the Town of Mint Hill website and click on the bond referendum which should answer many of your questions.  If you do have additional questions please contact Steve Frey, PE, Town Engineer and Director Public Works at 704-545-9726.

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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran's affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
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