Despite heavy opposition, Harrisburg town council votes to move forward with development project

Harrisburg Town Council vote on development

HARRISBURG, NC (WBTV) - For months, Harrisburg residents have spoken out against a proposed development project that would be built along Stallings Road in their community. Their fight didn’t stop Monday night.

Dozens of community members packed the auditorium at Hickory Ridge High School in Cabarrus County for Monday night's meeting of the Harrisburg Town Council. Several of the residents wore red shirts as a display of unity.

The neighbors have been fighting a project that would put 190 homes next to the existing Stallings Farm and Flowers Farm neighborhoods. The residents are calling it 'high-density housing' and are concerned that it will mean smaller homes built on smaller lots. They worry the new homes will put a strain on the infrastructure, increase traffic near their houses, overcrowd schools and potentially diminish their property values.

After reviewing the details of the project and listening to several members of the public speak out against the development, the council voted 4-3 to rezone the land in question and move forward with the project.

Council members Troy Selberg, Benita Conrad, John Booth, and Diamond Staton-Williams voted in favor of the project. Council members Ron Smith, Rick Russo, and Christopher Barfield voted against the new development.

Many residents in attendance were visibly upset after the vote was taken. Several council members told the crowd they were faced with a very tough decision.

"It took me a long time to make my mind up. I didn't know what I was going to do when I walked in here tonight," said Russo.

The council member then explained his decision to the residents in attendance at the meeting.

"I liked the project, but I just didn't like a lot of the things that pertained to it," noted Russo.

He listed traffic impact as one of his main concerns with the project moving forward.

Council member Ron Smith told the crowd that the development decision made Monday night will impact other neighborhoods in the area.

"What could have been done was something with regard to being more consistent with what is already built today," said Smith.

The crowd applauded loudly following Smith's remarks. Several people started to leave the auditorium when council member Benita Conrad started to explain why she voted for the project. Many others shouted back at her as she tried to explain that the elected leaders had been meeting with the developer for 18 months regarding the project.

"The developer is being required to make road improvements to help with the traffic situation and the board of education is addressing the issues with overcrowding in the schools," Conrad told the residents.

She said the council struggled to balance the rights of the property owner with the rights of the community.

"We didn't become ranked one of the best small towns in America by rubber-stamping development," said Conrad. "We have thoroughly examined this development. We do disagree on this development, but we did approve it."

Council member Diamond Staton-Williams also took time to explain her vote to the public.

"I felt that this community would benefit from a diverse community. We need diversity," said Staton-Williams.

The council member then scolded the crowd for some of their remarks and reactions during the meeting.

"I am very disappointed, very disappointed by the reaction of people in this room," she said. "What we should be doing is respecting each other, not yelling out, talking over each other. It's rude."

Harrisburg resident Michael Painter showed up to the meeting armed with a blueprint of the proposed project. He was escorted out of the meeting at one point for trying to argue with council members.

"I'm opposed to them connecting to my neighborhood without a sidewalk. I'm concerned about my children's safety walking and the additional traffic with the proposed neighborhood," explained Painter.

Resident Patrick Rhyne has been researching the project for weeks. He was disappointed with Monday's vote.

“I do think that they missed an opportunity to hear the voice of the current residents of Harrisburg and instead sided with the landowners,” elaborated Rhyne.

Copyright 2018 WBTV. All rights reserved.