Commentary: There’s no ‘land-use’ rebellion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 28, 2008

By Ben Knox
For the Salisbury Post
In reference to the May 23 story “Committee rebels against recommendations”:
As a member of the Land Use Steering Committee, I would like to say that there is no rebellion taking place. Rebellion implies there is someone trying to overthrow authority. I hardly think reinstating farmland preservation into a land use study can be construed as a rebellion. The Rowan County Board of Commissioners appointed the steering committee members to represent the landowners and constituents from their township. At the two public meetings held earlier in the year, the landowners in the area turned out to view the information put together by Benchmark CMR Inc., county planning staff and the committee members. At these meetings, 80 percent of the constituents said there needed to be a land use plan and 61 percent said they wanted some type of farmland preservation to be included in the plan. Everyone I have talked with said there needs to be a land use plan.
Prior to our last meeting, Benchmark CMR Inc. and the county planning staff placed farmland preservation into a strategic appendix, and we were told that it would not be considered for public viewing. This would have removed it from the General Land Use Plan. The majority of the steering committee would have been remiss if it had not placed it back into the main part of the land use study. After all, farming is a land use. It is different from development, but it is still a land use. Therefore, the majority of the steering committee felt it needed to be reinserted back into the General Land Use Study.
I have also heard it said at the steering committee meetings that farmland preservation will prevent a landowner from selling his or her land. This is completely false. Any landowner, large or small, that chooses to place his or her land into preservation programs ó whether it is a conservation easement, term easement or selling of development rights ó can still sell their land. It just has to remain in farm use, and landowners would not place their land into preservation unless they wanted it to remain a farm. I’m sure there would be someone willing to buy property knowing that it cannot be developed and additional houses could not be built in close proximity to theirs.
With heavy development pressure coming from the southern and western sides of Rowan County, there needs to be some type of emphasis on farmland preservation in the land use plan. It is a projected that there will be 14,000 new residents in the southwestern part of Rowan County by 2032 due to the Kannapolis Research Center. There was a national study that stated for every new person, it takes 2.1 acres of infrastructure to support that person ó infrastructure being schools, roads, water, sewer, police and fire protection. If this holds true for southwestern Rowan, then by the year 2032 it is possible that 29,400 acres, or 6.75 square miles, of land could be lost to some type of development. If the land use plan has some type of farmland preservation written into it, then farming and development can be done in an orderly manner. This would help ensure food production, open space and orderly development for the residents of Rowan County for many years to come.
I believe the committee wants the Land Use Study to be the best it can be and to represent the thoughts and ideas of all taxpayers. The county commissioners appointed me to do just that, and I think it should be the job of the county commissioners to cut the parts of the plan they don’t like, not Benchmark CMR Inc. or the county planning staff. Then, if the taxpayers don’t like what the commissioners may or may not do with the land use study, they can elect new commissioners.
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Ben Knox serves on the Land Use Steering Committee and lives in Mt. Ulla.