MATTHEWS – No matter what happens this election season in the race to fill seats on the Matthews Board of Commissioners, the face of the board is sure to change.
With all six commissioners seats up for grabs, and only three incumbents seeking re-election – including commissioners Jeff Miller, Kress Query and John Urban – Matthews will have a new board to lead the town forward.
Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor, who is seeking re-election and is running unopposed, said the number of open seats has the potential to create “a new dynamic for Matthews,” adding he’s sure the new board will continue to steer Matthews in the right direction.
Seven of the eight candidates for board, in addition to Taylor, participated in a forum Tuesday, Oct. 22, sponsored by Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly and the Matthews Chamber of Commerce. Gina Hoover, a candidate for council, could not attend the event, citing a recent traffic wreck.
Other candidates, including incumbents and challengers John Higdon, Chris Melton, Joe Pata and John Ross, had a chance to discuss their plans for how to handle future growth in the town, how they plan to partner with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other surrounding municipalities, reasons they would consider raising taxes and how to deal with an ever-growing traffic problem in the area – one of the biggest concerns for area constituents, some candidates said.
“We need to do something about the traffic,” Query said. “The problem is actually addressing it.”
While there are several options to address traffic concerns, Query, along with several other candidates, agreed traffic problems can be resolved in the future by communicating and working with surrounding municipalities to help encourage smooth transitions from town to town, with some candidates pointing the finger of blame at Union County residents for congestion. Widening roads and using Powell Bill funds the right way also were ideas thrown on the table. But as the town continues to grow and move forward, with additions like the new Mecklenburg County Sportsplex opening, traffic will continue to increase.
That’s why traffic and economic development will need to be addressed at the same pace, Taylor added.
“There are traffic issues – we have to address those. Economic development is a big issue. We want to make sure this town is just as good now as it is 10 years from now,” Taylor said.
When it comes to development, its clear downtown is an area of concern, or pride, for candidates who want to see more foot traffic and a better balance of commercial and residential space in the area. Following the design and idea based around the Matthews Gateway development, many candidates, including Urban – whose architectural firm helped design the development – hope to see more density.
“We have to have head-on-beds in downtown,” Urban said of more mixed-use developments that would encourage a “park once”-type environment, where residents can live, work and play without having to get in a car.
Other candidates agree that more can be done to draw residents downtown. Ross suggested working with downtown businesses to host events such as a sidewalk sale to help businesses draw in new customers. In addition, other candidates suggested using incentives to get new businesses to the area and to help current businesses, but all cautioned that incentive programs could be tricky.
“For smaller properties, I don’t think tax incentives are the way to go,” Miller said.
“We need to find innovative ways to get the tax-base up,” Pata said. “As far as business incentives, we have to be careful.”
When it comes to working with other entities like CMS and neighboring municipalities, candidates agreed it’s good to work with other organizations to help better Matthews. Whether providing support for local schools in mentorships, security or volunteers, or working with neighboring town leaders to share ideas and initiatives, candidates agreed supporting one another will only be good for the town.
But take caution. While some initiatives may work for other municipalities, the same might not be the right fit for Matthews.
“What works for Huntersville and Davidson might not work for Matthews, but we need to share ideas. What worked? What didn’t work?” Melton said. “We have what we have – we have to use our land wisely. We’re not Pineville – heavily industrial. We’re not Mint Hill – heavily residential.”
Higdon, who specifically highlighted the “spirit of cooperation” for the East John Street/ Old Monroe Road project, which involves talks between the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Matthews, Stallings and Indian Trail, agreed working with other towns could be beneficial to the growth of Matthews.
“Let’s learn from mistakes and learn from the best. Let’s look at places that have done well,” Higdon said.
To find out more about candidates for Matthews Board of Commissioners, visit www.matthewsminthillweekly.com and search “Matthews Election.” Election Day is Nov. 5. Find your polling place at the Mecklenburg Board of Elections website, www.meckboe.org.