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Planning Board holds its first ‘debate’ on land-use plan

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
A land-use plan friendly to farm preservation ran into a buzz saw of business and property rights Planning Board members Thursday night.
“This is not a land-use plan. It’s an anti-growth, anti-development, anti-affordable housing plan,” Mac Butner, vice chairman, said at the outset of the first work session of the Rowan Planning Board Thursday evening. Butner made clear he was ready to vote to disapprove it and send it on to the Rowan County Board of County Commissioners.
Greg Edds praised the commitment and passion of the Land Use Steering Committee, which spent a year developing the study for all unincorporated areas west of I-85.
But Edds left no doubt that he objects to major portions of the plan. “They (farmers) can’t dictate how their neighbors use their land.”His advice to farmers who want to preserve their land ó “Don’t sell it.”
Planning Board members weighed in with their view of the plan, with the majority sounding concerns about the plan tromping on individual property rights in favor of preserving farmland.
Melanie Earle, who also served on the Steering Committee, said the plan in its current form would violate citizen’s property rights.
Carl Ford said the county needs to tweak its zoning instead of trying to do a land-use plan. He questioned whether the use of “encourage” used frequently in the plan would translate to requirements or enforcement.
Edwin Hammill, a farmer and businessman from Gold Hill, was the lone voice supporting the farmland and open space recommendations. Hammill suggested that the proposal to increase minimum lot sizes to 2 to 4 acres should be increased. “That will slow growth, keep farms from being cut up,” Hammill said.
The board spent more than two hours working on the 14-pages of recommendations, marking or “flagging” individual recommendations and whole sections.
The residential recommendations drew an onslaught of questions and criticism.
By consensus, the board agreed to flag the whole set of recommendations for Area 1, most of west Rowan north of N.C. 152 to the Davie County line.The Steering Committee recommended that traditional major subdivisions be discouraged in favor of conservation subdivisions, a concept that would cluster homes on half-acre lots and leave a large open space for woodlands, pastures or hayfield.
“Who would be responsible for the liability of the open space,” Donna Poteat asked, setting off an extended debate.
Edds, Ford and others objected to the requirement for an impact study of major subdivision sites including soils, trees, wildlife and historic resources.
“That’s opening a Pandora’s box,” Edds said, pointing out that an impact study of a historic site is the reason there isn’t a new I-85 bridge over the Yadkin River.
When discussion turned to the recommendation for lot sizes of 2 to 4 acres, Butner said Rowan residents will have to move to Yadkin and Davie counties because they won’t be able to afford to live in Rowan.
Planning Board members also took issue with recommendations to control signage, and lighting at businesses.
Overall, the board left most of the recommendations for businesses unchanged.
The board will meet again Monday at 5 p.m. in the Cohen Administrative Offices Building. Two additional work sessions are scheduled for Sept. 9 and 11 if needed.
The Planning Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on the plan at its Sept. 22 meeting.

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