N.C. 3 public meeting gives first look at possible land-use plans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS ó The people of northwestern Cabarrus County had another opportunity to voice their opinions on the future of the N.C. 3 corridor Thursday night.
The Centralina Council of Governments hosted the information session to present drafts of potential land-use plans to the public and get feedback.
The council represents the cities of Kannapolis and Mooresville and Cabarrus and Iredell counties, all of which are served by N.C. 3.
The council is working with these four governments to draft a unified plan for the future of N.C. 3, which will eventually run between the North Carolina Research Campus and several connecting arteries leading to interstates 85 and 77.
Although there’s more development closer to Mooresville, past the Dale Earnhardt Inc. complex, right now N.C. 3 is a two-lane road through a predominantly rural landscape.
And that’s how many landowners want it to stay. Last March, when the council invited citizens to Bethpage Presbyterian Church to discuss their vision of the highway’s future, the outcry against development was strong.
But Kannapolis continues to expand westward, granting voluntary annexation requests and aiming for more residential and commercial development in that region.
Last night, in response to an expected high turnout to discuss proposals, the Centralina Council of Governments scheduled two sessions at Bethpage Presbyterian.
Armed with multiple copies of large maps and aerial photographs, CCG Planning Director Bill Duston explained the options to a group of about 50 people.
Total attendance for the night was close to 100 in both sessions.
Duston stressed the plans are not set in stone and will not result in immediate rezoning.
“We’ve come up with some proposed land uses,” Duston said. “We’re here to give people information.”
Assisted by planning staff members from Kannapolis and Cabarrus County, Duston distributed summaries of two potential land-use plans as well as comment forms.
The goal: Have as many area residents as possible, not just landowners, weigh in about their preferred vision for the county.
“We’ve been busy,” Duston said. “And we’re ready to hear your thoughts.”
During the past 10 months, the council prepared two potential guides for future zoning and development along the N.C. 3 corridor.
Option A calls for the majority of the land to remain zoned for agricultural use. Those zoning classes vary among jurisdictions, but are the most restrictive ó in some areas allowing only one home per three acres in Cabarrus County.
Under this option, N.C. 3 would be maintained as a two-lane road.
The problem, according to Duston, is that the N.C. Department of Transportation estimates that traffic on N.C. 3 will grow to 25,000 to 30,000 cars per day by 2030, when the Research Campus is finished.
“However, N.C. 3 is not on any official NCDOT plan for funding improvements,” Duston said. “There is no money, no time schedule, no plans on the shelf for expanding N.C. 3 as of right now.”
Option B calls for a slightly higher residential zoning density and would allow more light commercial development in selected “neighborhood centers.”
That plan also calls for expanding N.C. 3 to a four-lane “rural parkway” designed to remain scenic, with a grassy median and no sidewalks. There would be a separate path alongside the road for pedestrians and cyclists.
Also, Duston put forward the concept of “viewsheds” ó plots of land which would essentially have a much larger right-of-way along the roadside. Current farmland, for example, might receive such a designation, preventing construction within 75 feet of the road on either side.
After presenting these ideas, Duston opened the room up for smaller question-and-answer sessions with planners.
Residents were quick to speak their minds.
“Where are they going to get the money for this? They’ll raise taxes,” said Ron McCormick. He and wife Elaine own property in the area.
“Kannapolis is going to keep spot-annexing until they just take us all in,” Elaine said. “Then we won’t be able to afford to live there because we can’t pay the taxes.”
Fred Wally, a resident of the Odell community and longtime opponent of what he sees as haphazard development, took issue the idea of “viewsheds.” Earlier, Duston had observed that smaller parcels of land may be exempt from the requirement not to develop close to the road.
“We’ll have farms with setbacks of 100 feet and right up the road will be community and industrial centers that can be 30 feet from the road,” Wally said. “It makes no sense.”
Not everyone was opposed to the idea of a wider N.C. 3. Ray Atkinson lives about a mile off of the highway.
“I think it’s good to plan for growth,” Atkinson said. The N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis would benefit from the proposed improvements, he added.
After a similar set of public hearings in Mooresville on Feb. 5, Duston said, the collected information will be tabulated and residents’ opinions presented to the four governing bodies later this year.
Kannapolis Public Works Director Wilmer Melton said the city’s planning staff would likely present the recommendations to the Kannapolis City Council for a vote at that time.