Conover nets awards for 'green' development

City Manager Donald Duncan says Conover officials don't seek awards for work to improve the town.

Two statewide awards this month will spotlight Conover's green-development efforts anyways.

The city learned Monday it will receive one of two Susan Burgess Awards from the N.C. League of Municipalities (NCLM) for green initiatives at its Conover Station development and other projects.

Burgess was a Charlotte city councilwoman and former NCLM president who challenged every local government entity in the state to conserve energy and other natural resources. Burgess died in 2010, and the NCLM created the award in her honor last year.

Awards are presented to a city with a population less than 10,000 and a city with a population more than 10,000. Cities are recognized for sustainable planning practices, good air quality, purchases of new green city vehicles and other practices.

"That's a great thing for our city," Duncan said at Monday night's city council meeting. "We never go after awards, but we're starting to be recognized for what we've done. We feel honored to be receiving (awards)."

Conover Mayor Lee Moritz said city leaders did not plan to attend the NCLM meeting in Raleigh on Oct. 23 because a dedication ceremony for Conover Station is scheduled at 11 a.m. Oct. 24.

"We'll be there in Raleigh," Moritz said. "We'll be happy to be there."

This week, the city will also receive a statewide Marvin Collins Planning Award from the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association. City Planner Lance Hight was recognized Monday night for the planning staff's sustainable-development efforts at Conover Station that won the award. Collins was a longtime state planner.

"With all the hard work on Conover Station, it feels good to be recognized for that," Hight said. "And for doing positive things, trying to promote sustainability and develop in an orderly way. It's collective as a whole to show that all departments are working hard together."

Hight said the planned five-acre Conover Station Park is among the next green initiatives for the city. Amenities will include trails and educational stations that provide information about water quality, conservation and other topics.
In other business at this week's council meeting:

n Duncan said the city hopes to advertise bids beginning Nov. 1 for construction on the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) next to Conover Station. MSC has worked for 20 years to help manufacturers test their products and solve problems, and the company plans to make a $2.8 million investment at the Conover site.

Duncan said MSC created 155 new jobs in the last quarter in Catawba, Caldwell, Alexander and Burke counties.

"They're about job creation," Duncan said. "We're moving them into a facility that will help them."

Plans call for bids to open Dec. 1 and construction to begin in 2012. Construction is expected to take nine months.

n Sidetrax Cafe expects to open in early January in a 120-square-foot space on the third floor of Conover Station. The city is working on a rental contract with the restaurant for the space near the new Conover library branch.

n The council approved an updated zoning map after holding a public hearing on the plan. No one spoke at the hearing.

Duncan said the city updates the map every two year.

"Since the last adoption of an official zoning map for the city of Conover and the surrounding extraterritorial area, there have occurred several annexations and several zoning changes which have rendered the former official map with its several amendments difficult to use," according to city information. "The proposed new official zoning map makes no substantive changes in the former official zoning map, as amended, but, rather, is strictly an update and incorporation thereof."