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County planning board splits on annexation, wine

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury PostProposed zoning changes to allow wine tasting rooms soured the Rowan County Planning Board Monday night.
And a resolution backing the county’s efforts to change annexation laws got stuffed back in the bottle to age another month.
Board members sparred over both wine tasting and annexation, coming up with no firm recommendation on either.
Board member Mac Butner suggested the board vote on a resolution supporting Rowan County commissioners’ efforts to change state annexation laws. Rowan officials are working to get the laws changed as they prepare to do legal battle with Salisbury over its proposed annexation in the N.C. 150 area.
Butner warned that it’s a matter of time until Mooresville reaches out N.C. 150 and up N.C. 801 to take in the million-dollar homes and other developments coming to the area. Butner said the state needs to end the “cavalier annexation” by municipalities.
Butner went on to note that before the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein didn’t say that Iraq invaded Kuwait, but that it “annexed” the neighboring nation.
“He didn’t get the people’s permission,” Butner said. “That’s happening in North Carolina.”
Dr. Ann Furr took exception to Butner comparing the state’s annexation laws to a dictator’s hostile actions.
“I wouldn’t go there,” she said. “That’s over-the-top rhetoric.”
“I don’t agree,” Butner responded.
John Linker said he wasn’t comfortable with the proposal.
“If I don’t support it, it will look like I don’t support the commissioners,” Linker said, adding that he’s not sure the planning board needs to jump into the debate over annexation.
With the support of Carl Ford, Butner put the resolution on the table for a vote.
Furr suggested the motion was out of order, since it was offered during public comment.
Chairman Terry Hill agreed. He put the resolution on next month’s agenda for a vote.
The annexation tussle came after the board split 5-5 on a motion by Ford to send a proposed wine-tasting text amendment to a committee for further study.
The hang-up appeared to be questions or confusion over whether a winery would be able to operate in a commercial or industrial zone, buy grapes and produce wine without any tie to a farm in the county.
Planners Shane Stewart and Andy Goodall said the text is intended to allow bona fide farms with wineries to operate tasting rooms and also have retail sales of wine they produce.
Both said the text was taken from other counties that have wineries with tasting rooms. And the proposed text allows wineries to operate in rural agricultural settings, which is becoming a major attraction in agri-tourism.
Two local farmers who now grow grapes spoke in favor of the proposed text amendment.
Tommy Baudoin and his wife, Amie,, have seven acres of grapes in Morgan Township.
Baudoin told the board that almost any winery would need to import or buy grapes or other fruits for their operation.
William Yost, of Cauble Farm road, has nine acres of muscadines and also is working toward operating a winery.
Butner insisted that the board get a written opinion from Terry Osborne, general manager of the Rowan/Kannapolis Alcoholic Beverage Control system.
County planners said they had consulted with ABC and Baudoin said both state and federal permits are required for wineries.
Ford made a motion to send the proposed text back to committee, saying issues had come up that the committee had not considered.
“We know we’re not a decision-making board,” said Furr, suggesting they send the proposal on to commissioners and let them decide.
“We are a decision-making board,” said Butner.
The board then split on Ford’s motion to send the issue back to committee. Butner, Ford, Hill, Mike Caskey and Ed Hammill voted in favor. Board members Donna Poteat, Melanie Earle, Barbara Lomax, Linker and Furr voted against.
After a few moments of confusion, Hill said the text amendment will be sent to the commissioners with no recommendation.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@salisburypost.com.

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