County Planning Board scrutinizes west Rowan plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Recommendations for farmland preservation, property rights and commercial development drew close scrutiny Monday evening.
The Rowan County Planning Board continued its review of the land-use study for western Rowan in preparation for making recommendations to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners later this month.
The Planning Board will continue its review at 5 p.m. today in the Cohen Administrative Office Building.
Chairman Terry Hill said the board will most likely begin voting on various sections and may consider adding or changing the recommendations drafted by the West Rowan Land Use Steering Committee.
Several members of the Planning Board said while they love farms and support farming, they can’t support some of the recommendations related to farmland preservation.
Greg Edds urged the board to add a recommendation supporting the elimination of the federal death tax. Edds said the huge taxes farm families face when a farmer dies causes farms to be sold.
After nearly an hour of discussion about the farmland preservation recommendations, board member Mac Butner questioned the emphasis in the plan on preserving farmland.
“Why is there not protection for individual homeownership?” Butner asked. “Why is homeownership not as notable as protecting a farm?”
Butner, a Realtor and developer, went on to argue that housing and homeownership is the backbone of the local and the national economy.
At another point, Butner said the whole study is skewed toward farm interests because of the makeup of the steering committee, which was mostly farmers.
Edwin Hammill, a Gold Hill farmer and businessman, defended farmland preservation in several exchanges.
At one point Hammill, referred to a story in Sunday’s Post in which Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, indicated support for using the sales tax to fund a farmland preservation program if voters passed a one-quarter cent tax.
“I never though I would see the day that Arnold would support $250,000 for farmland preservation,” Hammill said. “I never thought I would see the day.”
The board moved swiftly through recommendations dealing with commercial areas along U.S. 29 and U.S. 70. But the board agreed to flag the entire section of economic development recommendations for possible removal as unnecessary.
Most of the board agreed with a recommendation from Donna Poteat to cut nearly a page of recommendations labeled “Private Property Rights.” Poteat said most have nothing to do with property rights.
Edds agreed, calling for the board to take out a proposal to formalize the role of a land-use advisory committee to review proposed developments countywide.
The board opted to leave in place two provisions dealing with property rights:
– No public trails should be proposed across private lands or farmlands unless the property owner voluntarily consents to them;
– No access to privately owned real property will be granted by the government to any agency.