Growth is inevitable, and rural is in the eye of the beholder.
Those were the messages the Huntersville town board sent July 20 when it unanimously approved a special use permit that would allow a Huntersville man to hold weddings and other events in a yet-to-be constructed building on 29.3 acres along Beatties Ford Road, just south of Gilead Road.
More than a dozen would-be neighbors of Ron Randle’s proposed Harper Grove banquet facility, most of them from the nearby Cashion Woods subdivision, expressed opposition. They said noise from events would harm what they called the rural character of the area, that traffic would add to an already busy Beatties Ford Road, and that alcohol-influenced guests would cause trouble and even bother animals at two farms that touch the property.
Randle told commissioners that the lack of a comparable venue in the Lake Norman area was both his inspiration for creating Harper Grove, and an impetus for opposition from some neighbors.
“I understand a wedding banquet facility might be an atypical use of a rural parcel, and I completely understand how change can be unsettling,” said Randle, who lives on Duane Court.
But he and Huntersville Planning Director Jack Simoneau noted that Randle had agreed to a laundry list of conditions aimed at allaying neighbor’s concerns. Those included:
▪ Playing amplified music only inside the proposed two-story, barn-like building and limiting noise levels at the edges of the property to 70 decibels.
▪ Limiting events to 240 people, not including staff, caterers and other service providers.
▪ Employing two off duty police officers for any events at which alcohol is served.
▪ Ending all events by 11 p.m., with the last vendors off the property by midnight.
Randle added that just three acres of the almost 30-acre tract would be developed, leaving open space that ultimately could have become another residential subdivision.
“Our premise, and in fact the entire function of our banquet facility, is based on preserving the beauty, openness and natural beauty of the land,” he said. The special use permit application, filed in February, lists Scott Berk of Delray Beach, Fla., as the owner of the property.
Randle also said town planners estimated a residential neighborhood on the property would generate upward of 400,000 vehicle trips per year, compared to the projected 30,000 from Harper Grove.
“There’s no question that Harper Grove would have less impact on roadways and produce less traffic than a subdivision,” Randle said.
Commissioners agreed, and reminded Harper Grove opponents that in a rapidly growing area, undeveloped land doesn’t stay that way.
“Things are going to change,” Commissioner Ron Julian said. “I wish I could change that, but I can’t.”
Julian also agreed that Randle’s facility would do little to affect the character of the area.
“It does meet the rural aspect you want out there,” he told those opposing the project.
Commissioner Rob Kidwell told Randle he hoped he hadn’t accepted so many restrictions that it would be hard for his business to succeed.
“You did this out of respect for your neighbors,” Kidwell said.
Commissioner Sarah McAulay, a lifelong Huntersville resident and former mayor, said she’s watched Huntersville grow from a sleepy small town to a booming suburb with more than 50,000 residents, and Harper Grove opponents were trying to protect something that was long gone.
“That is not rural to me,” she said in describing the Beatties Ford Road corridor.
John Deem is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.