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Matthews asking voters to approve $35 million in bonds for parks, transportation and infrastructure

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Town leaders in Matthews are asking residents to weigh in on a $35 million bond package. If approved, the bonds would fund a variety of projects like a road extension, sidewalk improvements and a downtown loop for pedestrians and cyclists.

The town of Matthews is asking voters to give the town the green light to issue $35 million in new bonds as part of what the town dubs the “Moving Mathews Forward” referendum. The money would fund a variety of infrastructure, transportation and parks and recreation projects.

“These would help pay for many amenities that our citizens have let us know that they'd like to see come to fruition,” Matthews Mayor John Higdon said. “We simply just don't have enough money in our general fund to pay for them.”

If approved, property taxes would go up 3.7 cents for every $100 in valuation once all the bonds are issued, which the town says would likely be in stages. For a $400,000 house, for example, taxes would go up about $150 a year.

At the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization meeting last week, Matthews transportation planner Dana Stoogenke recognizes that this is a big ask — particularly for a town of around 32,000 — but Stoogenke and Higdon both think the new funds would improve the city in a way that aligns with what residents want.

“We want to make sure that we're giving our residents what they keep asking for,” Stoogenke said. “And so this is the way forward for us to put skin in the game and hopefully make some big differences in the way mobility happens in Matthews.”

One of the areas that Stoogenke emphasized is parking. Parking in downtown Matthews is at a point where many local residents have called for the town to build a parking deck, Stoogenke said.

Higdon supported constructing a new parking deck. But after a study funded in part by the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, they were able to find places where the town could add 100 new parking spaces downtown.

Higdon said that this will help increase parking capacity by reconfiguring roads and parking spots without having to pay millions in construction costs.

”Our downtown business owners have told us, ‘Hey, you know, people like to park close to where they're going. They don't want to walk a great distance to visit a business,’” Higdon said. “So we think by adding these hundred spaces, it's going to improve the experience.”

If passed, $14 million would be allocated for improvements at the city’s parks like building an amphitheater, adding more bathrooms and constructing a downtown loop for pedestrians and cyclists.

The other $21 million would go to transportation projects like a road extension to help commuters avoid downtown and improving sidewalks.

One of the goals of the referendum is to increase mobility for both pedestrians and drivers. But looking at previous projects that have increased walkability, like the town’s greenway, show that these projects have proved to be popular, Higdon said.

“Any time we open up a greenway or a new section of Greenway, we see a lot of people utilizing them, so we know there's a need,” Higdon said. “If you build it, they'll come and people will take that opportunity to walk if they can do it safely.”

The projects that would be funded by the referendum came from a citizen survey conducted by the town. The referendum will be on the ballot in the upcoming November elections.

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Lars Lonnroth is a journalism and political science student at Mercer University in Georgia. He's interning at WFAE.