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Editorial: Why rush things now?

Thank goodness the Rowan County commission won’t tolerate any “delaying tactics” regarding a land-use plan for the western part of the county.
The land-use plan has already encountered enough delays to qualify as a federal highway project. Of course, what’s passing strange about the commission’s newfound urgency regarding this matter is that the board itself, in various iterations, has been largely responsible for the glacially slow movement of the process.
It has been more than three years since the February 2005 meeting at which the commission pulled the plug on its contract with UNCC’s Urban Institute in the middle of the county’s first attempt at a land-use plan. At that point, Commissioner Arnold Chamberlain, then vice chairman of the board, offered assurances that the process would go forward later that year.
We won’t rehash the history of that decision but simply note the leisurely timeline. Rather than moving things forward, the majority of the board appeared about as eager to take up land-use planning as to dine on roadkill. It mostly lay fallow through the rest of 2005 and 2006. When the board briefly discussed land-use planning at a December 2006 meeting, it opted to delay any consideration until its February 2007 retreat, and a Post article at the time quoted Commissioner Jim Sides as joking, “Let’s table it to 2008. Let the next board deal with it.”
Well, joke or not, that’s coming close to reality. But now, rather than table the plan, Sides says he’s anxious for the land-use planning committee to finish its work “so I can vote against it.”
Given that attitude, who could blame the land-use committee if it were hoping to get a fairer and more open-minded hearing after the next election? Bear in mind, the public hasn’t even had a chance to consider the committee’s recommendations and ask questions yet but can do so at two informational hearings (one will be Thursday, from 5 p.m.-8 p.m., at West Rowan High; the other is July 15, from 5 p.m.-8 p.m., at South Rowan High). You’d think public reaction to the committee’s work might have some sway over how board members view the process, and how expeditiously they move to either finalize a plan, revise it or ó following Sides’ lead ó leave it flat in the road.
Admittedly, the previous land-use committee suffered from spotty attendance at meetings, and it eventually foundered under the broader scope of its deliberations. But even though current committee members have clashed on including farmland preservation as a longrange goal, this committee has been far more focused and diligent in its efforts to craft guidelines for one portion of Rowan, and the county planning staff has expended much hard work into trying to deliver a workable blueprint.
While county leaders have dithered over land use, growth and its accompanying issues have shown no signs of abating. The county needs a land-use plan that can help promote sustainable economic growth and longterm livability for its residents, and it needed it yesterday. Even so, considering how the commission has dragged its own feet and kept land-use planning on the back burner in the past, it’s more than a little ironic that it would now turn up the heat on others to hurry and finish the job.

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