Land-use meeting again focuses on preserving, protecting farmland
By Jessie Burchette
Draft recommendations for land use in western Rowan County are almost ready for a final round of public workshops.
The Rowan Land Use Steering Committee spent two hours Tuesday night reviewing and rehashing dozens of recommendations.
Much of the discussion again centered on preserving and protecting farmland, either through zoning or some type of purchase of development rights.
Some committee members, including Ben Knox, worried aloud about the reaction of the Rowan County Planning Board when it gets the final report.
Knox and James Rollans questioned whether the Planning Board will cut out sections of the plan before it gets to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
County Planning Director Ed Muire suggested a joint workshop for the Planning Board and the land-use committee. “You have ownership of this document,” he said. “You may want to have a work session.”
Muire said the Planning Board will likely make recommendations on various elements of the plan, but commissioners will get the entire final document.
As the committee prepared to go through the revamped version, Rollans offered a proposal to reformat the entire plan and add various introductory elements.
As some staff and committee members recoiled at the extra time that would be needed, Richard “Jimbo” Shaver said he was willing to put in more time. “We’ve been here a year,” he said.
In the midst of the restructuring discussion, committee member Steve Poteat took exception to the phrase “our land,” saying that sounded like socialism. “My land is not yours,” Poteat said to Rollans.
“I’m not trying to take anybody’s rights away,” Rollans responded.
As Rollans moved forward in an effort to revamp and expand the document, planners said the proposal goes beyond the mission assigned to the committee by county commissioners.
Jason Epley, a planner with Benchmark, the firm hired to do the plan, advised the committee that it is not charged with developing a comprehensive plan, but a basic land-use study for western Rowan.
Over the next hour, the committee moved erratically through the 13 pages of recommendations.
Rollans objected to a map included in the plan showing boundaries for three development areas. He wanted to go back to an earlier map which depicted a much larger area where traditional major subdivisions would be limited.
During that discussion, Rollans brought back the idea of using a map based on soil types.
That sparked an exchange with Jeff Morris, who said the county can’t zone based on soil types.
At one point, Morris questioned whether the aim was to delay the plan from being presented to commissioners until after the November election.
The committee agreed to leave the map in the draft plan and seek public comment.
Two public workshops will be held in mid-July, with dates to be announced. The sessions will be held at South Rowan and West Rowan high schools.
Muire said the final plan will likely go to the Rowan County Planning Board in August.