Program will reimburse local businesses, help renovate downtown shops
Business and property owners in downtown Waxhaw can now apply for a grant to help cover the cost of restoring their buildings. The Waxhaw town council finalized details on the grant during their Tuesday, Oct. 11 meeting, approving the measure by a 3 to 2 vote, with council members Phillip Gregory and Joyce Blythe in opposition.
The project is a scaled down and reworked version of the historic district proposal that failed earlier this year. By turning it into a grant program, the council made it a voluntary process this time around, so only those interested would be impacted. The project sets aside $7,500 from the town’s general fund, to be used as grant funding. If a business or property owner wants to restore his facility to the way it originally looked, he or she can apply to the Waxhaw Historic Preservation Committee. If the application is approved, the committee can authorize different amounts, up to $7,500 towards the restoration. To qualify, the restoration has to cost a minimum of $250.
“It’s an investment in our economic development,” Waxhaw council member Erin Kirkpatrick said. “It’s money we’re investing to bring people to our downtown corridor.”
Any business or property in a portion of the downtown area qualifies for the project. That includes the area of North and South Main Street, the Waxhaw Women’s Club, the Bridge and the Antique Mart, as well as everything in between.
The cutoff date for applications will be Jan. 1 of each year, with approval or denial coming by April 1. All construction reimbursed by the grant would have to be completed within four months of approval. Under the terms approved Tuesday night, the town will review the program each year, to determine any adjustments needed. If a project is rejected, the town will send a letter out explaining why and encouraging the owner to resubmit the next year.
The application process was what concerned Blythe and Gregory, as both questioned why the Historic Preservation Committee should be in charge. The problem, Blythe said, was that some of the downtown business owners might not ask for the grant if it meant coming back to the same committee that had designed the historic district.
“70 to 80 percent of the people this affects did not want the historic district overlay,” Blythe said, suggesting that applicants be given an option, between the Historic Preservation Committee and town staff. “This rubs salt in that wound big time. They’ve got to eat crow and go back to the commission.”
Gregory went a step further, suggesting for the first year of the program, town council members receive and approve applications.
“The reason we need to be mediators (is) there are very hard feelings,” Gregory said. “We (need) a buffer time the first year. This is not an olive branch. One side sees it as us cramming it down their throat.”
Gregory added that he felt more public input was needed before the board moved forward with such a proposal.
Why use Historic Committee?
Town planner Katie Ross told the board that staff suggested the Historic Preservation Committee because the committee members were the ones who helped develop the grant guidelines.
“If people are not interested, they don’t have to apply for the grant,” Historic Preservation Committee member Terry Settle told the council. “We really want to preserve all the historic buildings downtown.”
Other council members argued that people needed to set aside the hurt feelings from the historic district fight and move on.
“Nothing is being forced,” council member Brett Diller said. “Let’s let these wounds heal, instead of picking at it.”
Fellow council member Erin Kirkpatrick agreed, saying people needed to remember the committee was composed of residents and volunteers.
“Forgiveness needs to happen,” Kirkpatrick said. “Trust needs to begin instead of continually dividing this town.”