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Committee still hammering out land-use plan

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
Members of a committee looking at land use in western Rowan County nitpicked their way through 11 pages of recommendations Monday night.
At times, committee members clashed with county planning staff over what the final product should be.
Ed Muire, the county’s planning director, made clear he wants a plan that can win the approval of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
Muire said while the 10-member committee is focusing on input from 30 people at public workshops, along with their friends and neighbors, the plan must represent many more interests.
Referring to the failed land-use planning effort nearly two years ago, Muire said he wants a plan that will make through the county planning board and be acceptable to commissioners.
“Since 1753, we haven’t had a land-use plan,” Muire said, looking across the meeting room at the county seal. “Some of you may have your feelings hurt, but there is no way to put everything on your wish list in this document.”
He repeatedly encouraged members to “look at the big picture,” instead of battling over every sentence.
Much of the debate focused on using words such as “encourage” or “consider” instead of “require.”
At one point, Mount Ulla resident James Rollans took issue with changes in a map of the area that appeared to change the areas defined for differing residential densities.
Planners said the change was made to better reflect the current conditions of where residential development is occurring.
Rollans suggested a vote on resetting the boundaries.
Committee member Jeff Morris repeatedly raised questions about whether the plan is supposed to represent the committee or the county Planning Department and Benchmark, the consulting firm assisting with the plan.
The committee spent almost three hours going through the general study report.
At that point, the committee went against Muire’s recommendation to move forward and not review the strategic appendix. Muire noted that the committee had spent considerable time on the recommendations. The committee decided to go through the strategic appendix, looking at farmland preservation and other issues which were removed from the study.
Jeff Morris, of Spencer, questioned a memo from the Planning Department that said the strategic appendix will not be offered to the public for comment at upcoming workshops.
Morris, an opponent of many of the farmland preservation proposals with potential tax implications, said the appendix material should be deleted or the public should be able to comment.
“Don’t hide it from the public,” he said.
Muire said the preservation issues and tax recommendations will confuse the public and serve as misinformation.
“It’s an end run around the public,” replied Morris.
“You want to confuse the public,” responded Muire.
Other committee members agreed with Chairman Chris Cohen, who said the committee should go through the five-page appendix. The majority of committee members agreed that they may eliminate some of the recommendations or perhaps put some of them back into the main study report.
The committee’s next meeting is Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Cohen Administration Building.
The general study report includes recommendations dealing with major subdivisions and encourages the use of conservation subdivisions, especially in the areas south of U.S. 70.
The study recommends limiting approval of traditional major subdivisions north of U.S. 70. It encourages medium-density residential development in areas adjacent to Salisbury, China Grove and Landis.
It encourages commercial development ó called community nodes ó at key intersections and community crossroads. Examples of these include the intersection of N.C. 150 and Millbridge Road and the intersection of N.C. 152 and N.C. 153.
Other recommendations deal with various types of business ó highway, rural and home-based. Another recommendation focuses on encouraging commercial and industrial corridor development along U.S. 29 and U.S. 70.
Among other transportation issues, the study calls for a detailed study of the Westside connector to Kannapolis, including monitoring subdivision requests. The connector could spur a large-scale mixed-use development.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@salisburypost.com.

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