According to 2020 U.S. Census data, Mooresville’s population has grown by more than 50 percent in the last 10 years, causing the town’s four voting wards to deviate from acceptable size ranges.
As a result, all four wards must be redistricted to restore the balance of equality and return to compliance, said Adam Mitchell, an attorney with Tharrington Smith in Raleigh who spoke before the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
“Redistricting is based on the principle of one person, one vote,” Mitchell said. “What that means is when you have true electoral districts which you will have, the relative voting strength of each individual voter should be about the same no matter which district or ward they live in.”
The town’s population has increased from 32,711 in 2010 to 50,193 in 2020, according to U.S. Census data, Mitchell said. To achieve true equality among the town’s four wards, each ward should have the ideal number of 12,548 people, he said. That number was reached by dividing the town’s current population by the number of wards. For local government districts, the permitted deviation from this ideal number is plus or minus five percent which allows between 11,921-13,176 people per ward, he said.
None of the town’s current wards fall within that range, Mitchell said.
Ward 1, represented by Commissioner Eddie Dingler, has a population of 13,992. Ward 2, represented by Commissioner Thurman Houston, has a population of 9,998. Ward 3, represented by Commissioner Barbara Whittington, has a population 11,553. And Ward 4, represented by Commissioner Lisa Qualls, has a population of 14,650. Commissioners Gary West and Bobby Compton represent at-large seats.
Ward 3 and 4 seats are up for election this year but filing for those races has been delayed because of late census data. The election for these seats will be held in 2022. Meanwhile, West and Mayor Miles Atkins have filed to run for reelection on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Mitchell will return Sept. 20 with a set of three new ward maps for commissioners to consider and to select a preferred choice, he said. A public hearing will then be held at a later date for members of the community to comment with adoption of the new map taking place at a later meeting.
Commissioners asked Mitchell to have his firm’s demographer consider several factors when creating the proposed new ward maps. They asked for the preservation of core existing districts and neighborhoods like Mill Village; to avoid pairings of incumbents; and within legal limits to under load the fastest-growing wards that are expected to continue to grow to avoid more unbalance; and to try and avoid splitting neighborhoods or streets into separate wards.
Qualls made a motion to find as fact the town’s current electoral districts are out of compliance with the one person, one vote principle and that redistricting is required by law. The board approved that finding in a 6-0 vote.
The board then considered several zoning and permit requests. In a 5-1 vote with only Whittington dissenting, the board approved a zoning establishment of Municipal Single Family Residential-2, or R-2, for 75 acres of land at 1892, 1904, 1910, 1916, 1934, 1952, and 1956 Charlotte Highway that were recently released from Iredell County’s jurisdiction.
Currently zoned Iredell County Residential Agricultural, or RA, the property owners made up of St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church, William Stewart and Brian Newman sought a town of Mooresville Residential 5, or R-5, zoning designation, to construct a 243-home subdivision called Meadowbrook. The subdivision would be made up of 121 single-family townhomes and 122 single-family detached homes with a proposed density of 3.25 dwelling units per acre, said Weston Boles, of W.K. Dickson and Co., a local planning and engineering firm in Charlotte.
Commissioners questioned why developer Century Communities sought an R-5 zoning designation when the proposed density is low enough to warrant an R-2 designation. Compton acknowledged to build town homes, an R-5 designation is needed, but explained the board usually starts at R-2 and works its way up to a higher-density designation later.
“I could never support this,” Dingler said, to applause from the audience. “You lost a lot of us when you went past R-3.”
Two nearby residents of the proposed development spoke against the project during the public hearing, citing issues with traffic and the already tremendous growth in the area near Shinnville Road and N.C. 115. The board seemed to agree the project was too much, too quickly and West made a motion to rezone the property from RA to R-2 with Qualls, Thurman Houston, Dingler and Compton supporting it and Whittington voting against it.
In other business, the board approved in a 6-0 vote the issuance of a conditional or special use permit request to allow the construction of a 113,000 square-foot, three-story indoor storage facility at 143 Ebert Lane. A conditional or special use permit was needed to build a structure in excess of 75,000 square feet, town officials said. The board then approved in a 6-0 vote a voluntary annexation and utility extension request for a single-family home at 221 Rocky River Road. The board then unanimously approved a zoning establishment of Municipal Single Family Residential-2, or R-2, for the home.
In other business, the board unanimously approved the appointment of several people to fill vacancies on various advisory boards. The Board voted to appoint Maria Campagna to the Mooresville Public Arts Commission for a two-year term; Jessica DeHart to the Mooresville Public Arts Commission in an ex-officio capacity; and Carissa Abraham, Marc Kesten and Paola Garcia to the Mayor’s Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, each for a one-year term.
The Board of Commissioners also recognized several important people who have made an impact on the town. The Board recognized Ron Johnson with the first ever Moore Award for Johnson’s 30 years of service on the Mooresville Travel & Tourism Authority. The Moore Award is a special designation given by the Board of Commissioners to formally recognize an individual who has performed longstanding exemplary service to the town, Atkins said, and that Johnson is the first recipient of the award.
The board recognized Capt. Mark Shifflet who retired Sept. 1 after more than 22 years of service with the Mooresville Fire Department. Shifflet was hired in 1998 when Fire Station No. 2 opened and worked at Fire Station No. 4 at the time of his retirement, said Fire Chief Curt Deaton. The board also recognized Fleet Supervisor Brian Overcash, winner of the Service Excellence Award in the category of Commitment. Supervisor Robert Wayne said he selected Overcash for the award because of his outstanding leadership over the past 20 years.
Girl Scout Troop 2096 was recognized by the board for the tireless work in building a pet pantry at the Officer Jordan Sheldon Memorial Dog Park. Troop 2096 was awarded the Bronze Award for the project, the highest award Girl Scout Juniors can receive, Atkins said.