Draft land-use plan for west Rowan unveiled

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
A draft land-use plan for west Rowan offers an array of ways to preserve farmland and encourage compatible development.
The 22-page draft also offers ways to manage growth and boost industrial corridors along U.S. 29 and U.S. 70, while promoting economic development opportunities.
The draft plan, unveiled Thursday night at a meeting of the Land-Use Steering Committee, also calls for cooperative ventures between municipalities and the county in dealing with planning issues.
The draft, prepared by Benchmark of Kannapolis, recommends the Rowan-Salisbury Schools be involved in the review of major subdivisions. It also recommends that the county planning staff work closely in identifying possible sites for future schools.
The draft includes a property rights component that would open up the planning process, involving more people and getting more input from the communities.
Jason Epley, the Benchmark planner heading up the project, asked the 10-member committee to study the draft and be ready to approve or make changes at the April 24 session.
“Does this represent what you want? Does this represent the future of western Rowan County?” asked Epley. He noted the pages are filled with proposal to “promote, pursue, restrict, examine,” going on to ask the committee if these are the words they want, or if they prefer stronger words.
County Planning Director Ed Muire said the draft plan will be placed on the county’s Web site within the next few days.
Among projections, planners expect that southern Rowan will grow by 14,000 people in the next 15 years due to the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis,
Planners offered four pages of recommendations on ways to protect farmland, including an assortment of ways to buy or lease the development rights using primarly state and federal grants or programs. Farmers would get money to keep farming, rather than selling out for subdivisions.
Planners also offer an assortment of proposals to promote and develop agri-tourism, expand voluntary agricultural districts.
The plan would prohibit major subdivisions adjacent to farmland. Another recommendation is to consider establishing lot sizes of 5 acres or more in some areas.
Currently, a subdivision with eight lots is considered a major subdivision.
The plan also includes a growth management strategy to allow residential development, but locate it in the areas that can best support residential growth.
Under the plan, western Rowan is divided into three areas, with different strategies for each.
Major subdivisions would be restricted in Area 1, which is the area north of N.C. 150. Buffers would be required between developments and farmland. Major subdivisions would be allowed if the homes are clustered, which would preserve open space.
Higher density residential development would be encouraged in Area 2, which is primarily the Locke and China Grove townships. Residential developments with commercial components would be promoted.
Planners propose cluster or conservation subdivisions in Area 3, which is the area south of N.C. 150. Planners also see the area with a mix of residential and commercial development aimed at encouraging walking and biking.
Planners cited two areas for potential regional nodes, a mix of commercial and residential development: N.C. 150 and Millbridge Road, N.C. 152 and N.C. 153.
The study includes options for guidelines to control appearance, access and compatibility.
Throughout the presentation, Epley cited the value of controlling access for commercial developments, getting away from traditional strip development.
Other recommendations included establishing a billboard sign regulation throughout the western end of the county.
Responding to questions, county planners said the smaller billboard, anything under 99 square feet, is permitted by right on most of the roadways. N.C. Department of Transportation regulations cover U.S. 70.
A discussion over U.S. 70 being a commercial-industrial corridor produced the only spirited discussion of the evening.
James Rollans, committee member from Mount Ulla, questioned designating U.S. 70 as an industrial corridor. He appeared to favor limiting industrial development or condensing it more toward Salisbury.
Committee member Jeff Morris said the investment of $6 million or more a mile to widen the highway has made it an industrial corridor. “Market forces are at work,” said Morris.
Rollans said he feels that designating U.S. 70 as an industrial corridor is an error.
Responding to questions, Epley said the final draft will be prepared after the committee has had time to study, discuss and make its recommendations.
That will come on April 24 in a meeting set for 7 p.m. at the Rowan Public Library on West Fisher Street.
After that, the final draft will be aired at public sessions before going to the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners.