Divided Planning Board sends ‘butchered’ plan to commission

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Farmers squared off against property rights supporters Monday night with a proposed land-use plan for west Rowan at the center.
“This land-use plan is pointless,” Adele Goodman of Corriher Grange Road told the Rowan County Planning Board. “It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a severed arm.”
Goodman referred to the Planning Board’s revamped version of the document submitted by the Land Use Steering Committee. The revised plan strips out most of the language aimed at protecting and preserving farmland and limiting development.
Jeff Morris, a member of the Steering Committee, praised the Planning Board for developing a fair and balanced plan. “A land-use plan is not a proper forum for a farm bailout,” Morris said.
After listening to 10 speakers, the Planning Board voted 6-5 to send the revised plan to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners with a favorable vote.
An initial effort by Vice Chairman Mac Butner to vote to deny the plan failed on a 5-6 vote.
Butner gained support from Ed Hammill, a Gold Hill businessman and farmer, who supported the original plan. Hammill said the Planning Board should have never been involved. Instead, the plan should have gone directly from the Steering Committee to the Board of Commissioners.
Hammill said the Planning Board had butchered the plan.
Board members Ann Furr, Donna Poteat and Michael Caskey joined Hammill and Butner in voting to deny approval of the revised plan. But they came up short.
Carl Ford then offered a motion for a favorable recommendation. That drew support from Melanie Earle, John Linker, Chairman Terry Hill, Greg Edds and Barbara Lomax.
During the public comment time, opponents of the diluted plan directed fire at the plan and Planning Board members.
Marian Rollans, whose husband, James, served on the Steering Committee, said they are being discriminated against because they are farmers in Rowan County รณ a county where property rights rule.
The Rollanses live in Mount Ulla.
“Is this board hiding behind property rights for their own personal gains?” Rollans asked. She went on to suggest she may have legal recourse on the discrimination issue.
James Rollans, who played a key role in developing the original plan, went a step further, suggesting Planning Board members were looking after their own financial interests and their friends.
Ben Knox, a farmer and member of the Steering Committee, said farmers pay their own way.
“You’ve gutted the farmland protection,” Knox said, warning that Rowan County will be turned into fields covered in asphalt like Cabarrus and Mecklenburg.
Several speakers talked about the importance of stopping urban sprawl and preserving land to grow food.
At one point, Knox looked at Planning Board members and observed: “Looks like several of you like to eat.”
Larry Wright of Heritage Lane, a leading opponent of forced annexation, supported the Planning Board’s revised version. “If you want to control land, buy it,” Wright said.
Rod Whedbee, another member of the anti-annexation group, Rowan Property Rights Association, cited “massive tax breaks” that farmers get. “They’re like crack addicts. They’re never satisfied. They want more,” Whedbee said.
Several members of the audience wore buttons supporting property rights.
The plan now goes to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, which will likely schedule a public hearing at its mid-October meeting.