Cleveland pursuing land-use guide

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin

Salisbury Post

CLEVELAND — Town commissioners here voted unanimously Monday night to proceed with a land-use plan to guide future development.

“I think it’s the right step,” said Mayor Pro Tem Danny Gabriel. “I really do.”

Gabriel said going ahead with a plan will prevent the wrong kind of development from coming in. One slip-up, he said, and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Benchmark CMR of Kannapolis had agreed to help develop the plan at a cost of $6,000 to $10,000, depending on how comprehensive the board wanted it to be.

When Mayor Jim Brown asked for more specifics about the price range, Benchmark’s Ron Smith, who has served as the town’s subdivision administrator for two years, wrote out a proposal listing three options for $6,000, $7,000 and $8,000, respectively.

Brown recommended that commissioners accept the second — or $7,000 — option because it would include a survey of local residents. It also calls for monthly reports to town commissioners and the Planning Board as well as more interaction with Rowan County.

A zoning map would also be included.

According to a written proposal submitted by Benchmark, the background and research for the land-use plan will include interviews with major landholders and industries, review of development plans within Cleveland’s boundaries and information sharing with Rowan County and the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The mapping would include existing and proposed future land use; topographical constraints such as bad soils, flood plains, etc.; and water and sewer locations and availability.

Brown said the timeline for completion of the plan is six to eight months.

Jon Barber and Tina Hall, the newly-elected members of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, were at the meeting to offer their support for a land-use plan.

“Don’t you wish you could do your meetings in 25 minutes?” Brown joked, referring to the board’s early completion of the agenda.

Commissioner Mary Frank “Frankie” Fleming-Adkins encouraged the two to schedule periodic meetings to solicit suggestions from residents of western Rowan.

“I think that’s a good idea,” Barber said.

Fleming-Adkins said a former county commissioner did that years ago. “It was a real relaxed setting,” she said. “We’ll have doughnut holes.”

Hall said she and Barber were instrumental in changing the county board’s first Monday meeting time from 7 to 4 p.m. to make it more convenient for residents to attend.

“We hope to be able to come out, too,” she said. “We came here to see what’s going on.”

Barber said both of them attended several town board meetings during their campaigns.

“Municipalities are Rowan County,” he said. “It is no different. We do share some common issues, water and sewer, land issues … ”

A land-use plan allows residents to have a say on the future of the town and protect themselves from undesirable development. “So I applaud what you did,” Barber said.

It’s an emotional issue, said Town Commissioner Pat Phifer. “You don’t want anybody telling you what you can do with your land,” he said.

Barber said it’s important for municipalities and the county to work together on land-use and other issues. “We’re all Rowan County citizens,” he said.

Hall said the mayor of one municipality told her during the campaign that whenever the town needed help from county commissioners, “they tended to run the other way.”

That’s one reason she said she and Barber are making a point to attend town board meetings, and changing the first Monday meeting time allows them to do that.

“There’s two of us from Mount Ulla now,” Barber said.

There hasn’t been anyone from western Rowan County on the board for years, Fleming-Adkins said.

Brown said western Rowan has been like the county’s stepchild with very little representation other than former commissioners Frank Hall and Hall Steele.

“I applaud you for sticking your head in the noose,” Brown told Barber and Hall. “We’ll try not to jerk too hard on the noose.”

Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or