Residents clash over land-use plan
By Jessie Burchette
Advocates of public funding of farmland preservation clashed Thursday night with supporters of property rights during a Land-Use Steering Committee session.
The 10-member committee appointed by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners is working on a final draft of a plan for west Rowan to take to the public.
While most of the members praised the draft drawn up by Benchmark of Kannapolis, they had sharply different views on how to improve it.
Jeff Morris, an attorney from Spencer, prepared his own version of the 20-plus page plan, taking issue with any and all recommendations for public funding, tax deferments or any incentives to preserve farmland.
Morris contended the recommendations in the plan would bring about the largest tax increase in the county’s history. He said the panel is overstepping its mission to become involved in tax issues.
Morris also called for impact fees or adequate public facility fees for new subdivisions to stop the rush of low class development into the county.
Ben Knox, a west Rowan farmer, said the recommendations need to stay in. He added that instead of calling for commissioners to “consider” various proposals, the wording should be stronger.
Knox said people in the county want a land-use plan, going on to say that the public should help offset the difference between what a farmer makes operating as a farm versus what the land would bring for development.
He noted that a farmer can make about $200 an acre for crops in a good year, while developers are willing to pay $20,000 an acre.
Artie Watson, a Woodleaf farmer, took a different view. “If you can’t make it (in farming), go do something else,” he said, adding that he will never favor incentives.
Watson summed up the nearly 90-minute meeting, saying the biggest divide on the committee is between farmland preservation and property rights.
James Rollans, a Mount Ulla farmer, also brought his rewrite of several pages of the plan, strongly favoring farmland preservation.
Morris and Steve Poteat said the plan needs a much stronger section dealing with individual property rights.
Rollans, who objects to U.S. 70 being classified as an industrial corridor, suggested a provision to limit industrial and commercial spread along the highway.
Midway through his presentation, he quoted the line, “Build it and they will come.”
“That’s what Todd Arey said about the baseball stadium,” said Poteat, as the room erupted in laughter. As it subsided, Poteat added, ” And that’s what Steve Blount said about the industrial park.”
Arey and Blount are former county commissioners. Neither project has fulfilled its original projections.
Melanie Earle, the Planning Board representative on the committee, said much of the draft plan needs to be rewritten to respect property rights.
Morris also offered a proposal to create “an involuntary annexation barrier,” to prevent or make it more difficult for municipalities to spread further. The barrier would consist of a one-mile wide strip of special zoning with a minimum of one house per four acres. That would be outside the annexation requirements for urbanized areas that can be annexed.
Committee members speculated about how palatable the plan may be to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Several members concluded that the committee can offer a palette or buffet of options for commissioners to chose from.
Time ran out on the review session in the Hurley Room at the Rowan Public Library. The library closes at 9 p.m.
Members agreed to meet again at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the County Administration Building, 130 W. Innes St.
Five other committee members will give their views and recommendations on the plan.
Planning Director Ed Muire said it may take several meetings before the finished draft is ready for a series of public workshops. The plan is tentatively scheduled to go to commissioners in July.