Building code driving developers out of Cornelius

by: Eric Philips Updated:

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CORNELIUS - Town officials in Cornelius are considering whether to change local ordinances on where drive-thru businesses are allowed.

Right now you'll find them west of I-77 in the commercial district and village center.  They are not allowed downtown.

"Even in the two zones that we allow them in, it requires a conditional permit which takes about three to four months to get that approved," said Wayne Herron, Cornelius director of planning.

And there are restrictions on which way the drive-thrus can face.  All of that has been a major turn off for developers.  

"Over the last year at least 10 businesses have said time is of the essence and we're gonna look somewhere else," Herron said.

A special committee is reviewing the local code to see if they can speed up the process of approving drive-thrus in the areas where they're allowed, and possibly allow them in the town center. Take for example this bank that's just about to open near Town Hall.  Developers wanted to put a drive through ATM in the parking lot, but current code won't allow it.

"Our town is a little different than it was when we adopted the code in ‘96 and we want to move with the time," Herron said.

Town officials say it's a balancing act. They want to attract developer dollars but they don't want to compromise the character or pedestrian-friendly nature of the downtown.

"I think if careful study is done to the space allowed for good traffic flow and pedestrians it could be a real convenience," said shopper Leslie Swartz.

"Having a pedestrian-friendly area of our town just encourages people to be more active in our town," said Cornelius resident Jessica Boye.

The main issue is, no one wants to see more congestion downtown.

"I hope not, I really hope not because our neighborhood has been peaceful, quiet etc," said Cornelius resident Brenda Patterson.

A special committee will likely continue to study this issue for the next month before making a recommendation to the planning board, a final proposal may make its way to the Town Board within 60 days.