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County commissioners adopt land-use plan for western Rowan

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
After 256 years, Rowan County has a land-use plan for at least half the county.
On a 3-2 vote, the Board of Commissioners adopted the Planning Board version of the land-use plan for areas west of Interstate 85.
Commissioners Chad Mitchell and Tina Hall joined Chairman Carl Ford in support the Planning Board version, which is less restrictive of development than a plan developed by a county-appointed steering committee.
Vice Chairman Jon Barber and Commissioner Raymond Coltrain called for the board to take more time and try to mesh the original Land Use Steering Committee Plan and the Planning Board version. They voted against the Planning Board version.
The crowd that filled the meeting room was smaller than commissioners had expected.
A total of 30 speakers weighed in on the plan, farmland preservation and property rights.
Some farmers supported the Steering Committee version, which had provisions to protect or preserve farmland, limiting certain types of development in some areas.
Other farmers lined up with the property-rights advocates, saying they wanted the right to sell their property to developers or whoever else gives them the best price.
Others said the county should simply leave everybody alone and have no land-use plan.
Gene Myers, who described himself as an ex-farmer and current land developer, said he spoke for other farmers who want to be left alone.
Others, including Larry Wright, Rod Whedbee and Jack Fisher ó current members of the Planning Board ó said the best plan is no plan.
Carlyle Sherrill, attorney and farmer, made clear he supports farmland preservation but urged the board to approve the Planning Board version.
“Use it as a start,” he said. “You can tweak it, make it better.”
Darryl Corriher said he farms 2,000 acres and owns less than 10 percent of that acreage. “We depend tremendously on the non-farming landowners,” he said. “If we lost half of it (the acreage) we would be out of business.”
Corriher called for a compromise version.
Henry Goodnight, a south Rowan farmer, also urged the board to take more time and review both plans and take the best from each.
Several members of the Steering Committee criticized the changes made by the Planning Board.
James Rollans said the Planning Board version ignores environmental stewardship and allows for urban sprawl. His wife, Marian Rollans, called the Planning Board version “no plan.”
Chris Cohen, who headed the Steering Committee, said the Planning Board version encourages uncontrolled, sporadic growth.
Cohen said Ford, who served on the Planning Board that altered the Steering Committee version, was part of “butchering the plan.”
Ford noted the differing opinions among farmers in the county. He said he was contacted by Doug Patterson of Patterson Farms, who said he preferred no land-use plan.
Following almost three hours of comment, commissioners quickly gave reasons for their votes.
“Do we really want to preserve farmland by telling neighbors they can’t sell their land?” asked Mitchell. He went on to suggest efforts to control property are “the type of thing that will destroy our country.”
But Mitchell said a land-use plan is now essential for a host of federal and state programs and funding.
Ford said he would have never voted for a land-use plan two years ago, but changed his mind after hearing a state official say a plan is essential for the airport to get federal dollars for development.
Hall commended everyone who has worked on the plan. While it’s not perfect, she said, it is a start. She also urged commissioners to appoint a committee to work on a farmland preservation effort.
Barber hailed the efforts of the Steering Committee, saying the plan would save the beautiful open fields, woods and streams, preventing the destruction of the rural lifestyle. He asked commissioners to take the time to fashion a compromise version.
Coltrain said the Steering Committee identified some very good long-term visions of what the landscape of Rowan County should look like in the future. He noted that he could not support the Planning Board version because it didn’t include farmland preservation as a goal.
“While I am definitely a believer in having a plan, I do not believe it is wise to adopt a plan just to say we have one,” Coltrain said.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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