The long-awaited Statesville City Council public hearing on the proposed Love’s Truck Stop will begin at 7 p.m. March 16 at City Hall. And if the attorneys for Love’s get their way, Commissioner Michael Schlesinger will not be sitting on the dais.
“We believe Commissioner Schlesinger’s participation in the site plan review is improper,” said attorney Clifton Homesley in a motion for recusal served on the city Feb. 6. “He has a fixed opinion on this matter that is not susceptible to change ... and a purported and stated financial interest in the outcome of this matter.”
Schlesinger, a urologist with Piedmont Health Care, lives near the proposed site on I-40 near Exit 154. He was an active opponent of the plan when it first surfaced two years ago and ultimately won an at-large seat on the city council in 2013, motivated in part by his opposition to the truck stop. He has not indicated whether he will voluntarily recuse himself from the hearing.
“I would love to talk about the hearing, but we have been instructed by City Attorney Ed Gaines not to be discussing the matter prior to the hearing,” Schlesinger said. “I’m sure I will have some comments after.”
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Gaines says that, pursuant to state law, if Schlesinger does not voluntarily recuse himself, it will then be up to the other members of the city council to decide whether he should stay or not. “Majority vote will control the outcome,” said Gaines. “I have not advised the council as to how they should vote, as that will be up to each individual council member should Dr. Schlesinger choose not to recuse himself.”
The controversy over the proposed truck stop started in 2013, when the city’s Board of Adjustment, following several days of testimony, decided that a ruling by Planning Commissioner David Currier to allow truck stops as a use in the property’s zoning, known as B-4, was correct. The decision became controversial because truck stops aren’t listed as an allowable use in any of the city’s zoning districts.
That ruling was reversed on appeal by N.C. Superior Court Judge David Lee on technical grounds. The Board of Adjustment conducted a new hearing in 2014, coming to the same conclusion. That decision was also appealed and is currently awaiting a hearing in Superior Court.
However, the attorneys for both sides agreed to allow the site plan hearing to proceed, as long as no construction commences until the appeal decision is complete.
City officials expect a large turnout and are prepared to extend the hearing to several days if necessary.
Dave Vieser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Dave? Email him at email@example.com.