Officials gather to discuss land deal near I-85, N.C. 152

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.comEverybody wants a piece of the action in developing a six-mile stretch along Interstate 85, south of N.C. 152.
Kannapolis, Landis, China Grove and Salisbury officials made clear they want to have a share of the development, including the potential jobs and tax base.
Robert Van Geons, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, arranged the meeting to try and clear the air over Kannapolis’ plans to satellite annex almost 400 acres along I-85 near a proposed interchange with Old Beatty Ford road.
He stressed this is an chance to create a regional economic development opportunity that will benefit everyone.
The group of property owners include Gary Morton, Doug Patterson and Randall Patterson. They attended, along with Knox Realty representatives.
Gary Knox said the group turned to Kannapolis after being approved by a regional residential developer wanting to buy 120 acres for a residential project.
Most of the area is currently zoned rural agricultural, which allows residential development. But Knox said the area needs different zoning.
He displayed a graphic of the area titled “South-land.”
Knox and others involved in the project stressed the importance of getting the state to fund a new I-85 interchange at Old Beatty Ford Road.
Van Geons said he hoped the towns would ease the friction and work together.
But that friction was still evident when Landis Mayor Dennis Brown said the group of property owners had met repeatedly with Landis officials and asked the town to provide service for the area.
Brown said the town had engineers do studies on providing water and sewer to the area and Electricities looked at providing electricity. Brown said it now appears that won’t be part of the project, but he said Landis still wants to be involved.
Much of the discussion focused on how and who could provide water and sewer to the corridor.
Wilmer Melton, Kannapolis public works director, said Kannapolis has plenty of capacity to serve the area, including any high usage water customer.
Jim Beamer, director of Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, provided a map showing existing and potential lines to serve the area and ticked off figures of available capacity.
China Grove Mayor Don Bringle said China Grove would like to be a player in development, but he held out little hope.
Bringle said water and sewer rates Salisbury-Rowan Utilities charge are the biggest deterrent to economic development.
Carl Ford, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, expressed his concern over the rates, saying China Grove may lose the Tuscarora plant because of water costs.
Ford also raised a question about Cabarrus County handling permitting and inspections for Kannapolis, including parts in Rowan County.
Rep. Fred Steen, who is sponsoring the annexation bill for Kannapolis, quickly conducted a whisper session around the room. Steen announced he could amend the legislation to give Rowan County the authority to do permitting and inspections in the Rowan portion of Kannapolis.
Van Geons called for a collaborative effort identifying how utilities can best be provided for the lowest cost.
County Planning Director Ed Muire said the effort needed to be transparent with all the stakeholders involved knowing what is going on.
Commissioner Tina Hall agreed, saying the board of commissioners and the town boards need to be kept informed at every step.
“That’s not happened so far,” Hall said.
The meeting at the Tadlock South Rowan Regional Library was initially intended to be a closed session. A published announcement of the meeting drew a half dozen or more residents from the area who listened to the discussions.