Metrolina Greenhouses expansion approved

The owners of the nation's largest greenhouse have received the town's OK on a zoning change that will allow it to expand by about 1.5 million square feet.

On Dec. 20 the Huntersville Board of Commissioners unanimously approved rezoning about 133 acres on Huntersville-Concord Road to make the expansion possible at family-owned Metrolina Greenhouses Inc.

The property is just east of 16400 Huntersville-Concord Road and just west of the Skybrook North subdivision. A corner of the property will accommodate a 30-foot-wide greenway trail.

President Art Van Wingerden told the Observer recently that the company hopes to finish grading on the expansion by the end of 2011 and to start construction in 2011 or 2012, depending on market conditions. The expansion will add 35 jobs to Metrolina's staff of 500 full-time workers, he said.

Metrolina Greenhouses is the largest single-site heated greenhouse business in the U.S., according to the company's website. Four Concord Mills malls could fit inside, the company says. It also has about 30 acres of outdoor growing space. The company grows about 60 plant types in all.

Help plan Concord greenway

City officials want your ideas as they consider improving a gravel trail along a segment of Rocky River between Harris Road and N.C. 73. The improvements would make the trail a part of Concord's greenway system.

City officials said they're thinking about paving the trail, adding amenities and providing connections to Moss Creek, Odell Elementary and Harris Road Middle schools and Moss Farm Street, where public parking will be available.

That corridor has been designated for the Carolina Thread Trail. The regional greenway trail system is planned to link about 2.3 million people in 15 Carolinas counties.

Concord officials ask residents to complete a trail survey at

Bud Henderson Road bridge deck to be widened

The Bud Henderson Road bridge deck will be widened to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Dec. 20 to enter an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation to use town money to expand the deck.

Commissioners Danae Caulfield, Sarah McAulay and Ron Julian voted to spend $60,000 from the unobligated fund balance in the town's transportation reserve fund to widen the deck. Commissioners Ken Lucas and Charles Jeter voted against the move.

Jeter said the project wasn't on the list of the town's top 16 road improvements needed and the road would still be dangerously narrow for bicyclists and pedestrians on each end of the bridge. The state should pay if it wants the project, he said.

Catholic high school receives key approval

Despite concerns from some members, the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Dec. 20 to change the town's zoning ordinance to allow temporary school uses in corporate business zoning districts.

Real estate executive Gary Knox requested the change to enable the planned Christ the King Catholic High School to locate in a former warehouse on U.S. 21, about a half-mile south of Gilead Road. Schools have to ask the board for a special-use permit before they can occupy a building in those districts.

Board members Charles Jeter and Sarah McAulay expressed concerns about letting schools occupy buildings meant for businesses. "We have limited corporate-business space in our town," Jeter said. "Corporate taxes are a profit center for this town."

McAulay said she was concerned, too, but the building Christ the King Catholic High wants "hasn't been occupied for some time."

If issued a permit, a school would be allowed in a building for up to three years, then could seek a renewal for another two years.

Commissioner Ron Julian said his concern was school traffic backing up onto roads. He said four schools already have that effect in town.

Town planners said a traffic impact analysis would have to be done for the Catholic school to get a special-use permit, which the board will consider issuing in January. School officials hope to open it by August 2011.