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Cornelius, suffering growing pains, gets new planning director

CORNELIUS — Wayne Herron, named Friday as the new planning director for the town of Cornelius, “has the depth of experience we need at this crucial time,” Mayor Lynette Rinker said.


That experience, Rinker said, far outweighed the circumstances that led to Herron’s resignation in July as city manager in Monroe. Herron abruptly resigned after a series of conflicts with staff members, including what became a very public tiff with Monroe Police Chief Debra Duncan and City Councilwoman Dottie Nash.

“Those were personality conflicts, and he dealt with them head on during the interview process,” Rinker said. “We are satisfied that he has put those behind him.”

Herron replaces Karen Floyd, who is retiring after 15 years as Cornelius planning director.

A member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, Herron has amassed 17 years as an urban planner in North Carolina, including four years as planning director for the town of Boone and five in a similar position for the city of Monroe, according to his resume.

In 2006, Herron’s career took a turn into city management. He served for three years as Monroe’s assistant city manager and less than a year as interim city manager before taking over the city’s top administrative post in 2009.

Monroe Mayor Bobby Kilgore said Friday that “it wasn’t any one particular thing” that Herron resigned over.

“Wayne did a very good job for the city of Monroe, got a lot of good things done here,” Kilgore said. “I can still call him my friend. And I am sure he will do a very good job in Cornelius.”

Herron, who did not immediately return calls for this story, becomes planning director in Cornelius at a critical time in the town’s development history.

Landlocked on all sides by Lake Norman and the neighboring towns of Davidson and Huntersville, Cornelius is all but built-out, saddled with a high retail vacancy rate and struggling with housing-density, infrastructure and growth issues.

The town’s population grew by almost 60 percent, from 14,000 to 22,000, between 2000 and 2010, and is expected to reach 30,000 by 2020 and 37,500 in 2030, according the Lake Norman Economic Development Commission.

“We have to navigate back toward some kind of balance because we are way out of whack,” said Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy, a critic of high-density development in the town.

“Something like 83 percent of our property tax is skewed dramatically toward residential, with some retail after that, but nothing like what we really need, a major employment center. What we don’t need is more multifamily, or more places to get your hair cut or nails done.”

As a result, developers in the past six months have seen their projects shot down by the town’s planning board and Board of Commissioners, or they’ve given up on projects in the face of public outcry or city ordinances that would be expensive to comply with.

Rinker said Herron was hired to take on these issues by Cornelius Town Manager Anthony Roberts, who consulted with Rinker and town Commissioner Jeff Hare on the hire. Rinker and Hare have joined Gilroy in opposing multifamily development in Cornelius. Roberts did not return a call seeking comment.

“I absolutely, absolutely believe that having Mr. Herron as planning director will help us deal with all of what we have on our plate,” said Rinker, recently voted mayor by her fellow town commissioners to replace Jeff Tarte, who left the post to represent the newly created District 41 in the North Carolina Senate.

Tony Brown can be reached at [email protected], (704) 247-2912 or on Twitter at @tonymecktimes.

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