LUMBERTON — The owners of historic commercial properties in Lumberton may soon face increased accountability for the condition of their establishments.
The Lumberton City Council agreed to pursue a new “demolition by neglect” ordinance during its annual planning workshop on Wednesday.
The ordinance would apply to property owners within a local historic district, which has not yet been established. Buildings found to be in disrepair during routine inspections would be cited, and the owners would be given a list of improvements required to bring the property back up to standards.
Owners would have the option of appealing to an historic commission panel.
City Attorney Holt Moore said it would be important for the city to develop plans with the individual and help provide resources to cover the costs of restoration if the property owner claimed economic hardship as the reason for the appeal.
“If they just don’t do anything, they will be fined,” Moore said.
The ordinance would be a tool to help facilitate the restoration of deteriorated historic properties, rather than provide a reason to destroy the buildings, Moore said.
The historic commission would be tasked with identifying properties that might be subject to a citation. Inspectors would then intervene and inform the commission, which also hasn’t been established, if any violations of the ordinance were found.
“People just have to know that you mean business, and they’ll fall in line,” Moore said.
Similar ordinances in Fayetteville and Raleigh have been used to improve the conditions of historic buildings.
The council members also agreed on a new election campaign sign ordinance.
City Planning Director Brandon Love presented five revisions for the council’s consideration: Limiting the installation of political campaign signage to 60 days prior to election day; adjusting the maximum size allowance of signage to 32 square feet; banning signs on city property; affirming a required distance between signs at intersections; and not allowing mobile signs unless they are continuously connected to a licensed motor vehicle.
Council members agreed to look into new rules for posting signs at election sites, especially during early voting periods.
Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Transportation presented an improvement project designed to ease traffic issues at North Roberts Avenue and Fayetteville Road. Greg Burns, Anne Lenart-Redmond and Justin Carroll explained the potential benefits of a quadrant roadway intersection, which would reroute left turns away from the intersection.
Boomerang Drive, which connects the two roads, would be upgraded and used as a redirection route for vehicles that otherwise would be turning left.
That change would be part of a widening project on Fayetteville Road from Farringdom Street to East 22nd Street.
The DOT representatives said the level of service is bound to fail if the intersection remains in its current configuration. The intersection is routinely near capacity during peak hours.
Construction isn’t expected to begin until 2022.
In other business, the council members:
— Agreed to renew the city’s yearly contract with Alabama-based Retail Strategies for commercial and retail development services. City Manager Wayne Horne said the organization helps bring businesses to Lumberton.
— Reviewed three potential sites for an industrial park. The council members agreed on a site that would include 210 acres off Interstate 95 and 100 acres off U.S 74. Horne said utility lines would need to be extended to the park, but the area is attractive for developers because it does not include many designated wetland areas.
— Discussed options for renovating the city’s old water plant on Water Street. Horne and City Planning Director Brandon Love mentioned a microbrewery in Wilmington that has expressed interest in expanding to Lumberton. The council members agreed the building could be an attractive location for the business, if a deal can be reached.
— Heard updates on the city’s recovery from Hurricane Matthew.
— Analyzed options for improvements to the Bill Sapp Center parking lot. The city recently bought land across the street from the center that could be used for parking.
— Listened to a presentation from Horne about homelessness in the city after being presented with a written report on the subject. Councilman Leon Maynor had requested the report be compiled. Southeastern Family Violence Center representatives spoke about the services they offer for the homeless and advised the council members on what they can do to assist in those efforts.
— Heard from Tammy Lawrence, executive director of Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity, about the services offered by the organization. She said an ad hoc committee would need to be formed if the city wants to become involved with the organization.
— Agreed to move forward with an expansion project at Pennington Athletic Complex. The project includes, but is not limited to, the addition of 625 parking spaces, four soccer fields, an amphitheater and a walking trail.
— Agreed with a motion by Councilman John Cantey to increase the council members’ individual community revitalization funds by $1,500 a year to a total of $6,000. Cantey said the funds had only been increased twice in his 12 years on the council.
— Heard an update from Moore about the pending revision of the city’s charter. Moore said two bids have been received for the project, and he will have a recommendation for the council at April’s meeting.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected]