Columbus council approves apartment utility infrastructure agreement: Ponders beautification of town, business security cameras

Published 10:00 pm Monday, June 29, 2015

By Michael O’Hearn, Intern

Columbus Town Council, at their June 18 meeting held at town hall, voted to enter into an infrastructure reimbursement agreement with Mike Karaman of Tryon-based Karaman Properties, Inc. for the developer’s forthcoming apartment complex planned for Shuford Road.

Prior to the meeting, Karaman requested a number of amendments to be made to the agreement for the apartment complex.

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These amendments dealt with the language of the agreement being considered at the meeting and included changing the size of the lot on which the complex will be built from 2.36 acres to 2.3 acres, and revising the type of apartment complex from “single-level” to “apartments and condominium units.”

“The town will pay me back a percentage, not the full amount that I spent, putting in sewage lines and utilities,” Karaman said by phone after the meeting. “There is a long-term benefit to the town of us putting in apartments, apartments that they don’t have currently, and it will increase their tax fees and their incomes and as a result of these 18 units, they are willing to reimburse me some money for the long-term benefit to the Town of Columbus.”

According to Karaman, his contractors will break ground in three months after finishing preliminary planning.

“I think that’s approximately correct. We have a lot of engineering work and drawing work to do before anything is done out there now that the budget is fine,” Karaman explained.

In other business, council approved a motion to replace the wooden columns at the front of town hall with brick columns. According to Mayor Eric McIntyre, the existing wooden columns are rotting due to water erosion and need to be replaced. Councilman Josh Denton suggested adding electrical lighting conduit to the new columns. McIntyre agreed, suggesting to Town Manager Timothy Barth that he should approve the additional costs incurred by the extra conduit.

A bid was received from Leroy Miller for $1,205, with another quote found by Columbus Public Works Director James Smith for close to $4,000.

Councilwoman Margaret Metcalf and Councilman Scott Hamby both approved the bid presented by Miller and gave authorization to Barth to approve any costs, within reason, for extra work and conduit done to the new columns.

As part of the council report at the June 18 meeting, McIntyre remarked that a local business owner had approached him at the Blue Ridge Barbeque Festival to explain to him about the perception of equestrian participants around the area that the Town of Columbus is not doing much to look appealing to Tryon International Equestrian Center visitors.

The business owner gave preferences such as Forest City and Landrum in his explanation to the mayor, according to McIntyre. Additionally, the business owner wanted to know where visitors can lodge in Columbus while they stay.

McIntyre responded to the business owner by asking visitors to come to the town to see what it offers. The question then presented by the council involved what the council, staff and the public can do to make the Town of Columbus more appealing.

“Basically, in my own personal opinion, and let’s not sensationalize this or make this front page material, a new coat of paint on some buildings would go a long way and maybe catch the eyes of travelers more easily,” McIntyre commented. “I just think there is an opportunity to realize more income for our businesses if we step back and take another look at where we are and see if there is anything else we can do to make our little downtown area more appealing. It is so easy for our visitors, especially from the south hauling trailers, to take US Hwy 74 around the town to get to I-26 as opposed to going through town.”

Lt. Nicholas Stott of the Columbus Police Department gave the police report. Councilman Scott Hamby inquired about the increase in statistics regarding the population of the Town of Columbus between the months of April and May.

Stott could not definitively conclude if there was an increase in population due to the Tryon International Equestrian Center, as Hamby proposed, but he did note a general increase in traffic, calls to the police for assistance and accidents around the area.

“I can’t definitively give you a reason as to why there was an increase in statistics. It might be because of the equestrian center and it might be just a general increase,” Stott said. “However, I’ve seen a lot more accidents and calls to the police made from that area.”

Additionally, security cameras for businesses were discussed during the police department report.

“Very few businesses here in town have outside cameras and we have worked with businesses to talk about security concerns,” Stott explained. “I think the cameras help but sometimes these business owners do not provide the police department with video footage in a timely manner. Although I do believe more businesses need security cameras, it’s not the responsibility of the town to provide them.”