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Rowan Planning Board sets workshops on western land-use plan

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
The Rowan County Planning Board agreed Monday to set three September workshops to review a land-use study for western Rowan County, but it’s uncertain what the board will do at the conclusion of those workshops.
The 11-member panel offered widely different views on what the board’s ultimate role is ó to vote the plan up or down as presented or to revise it.
The Planning Board chose not to invite the West Rowan Land Use Steering Committee to participate in the workshops.
Chris Cohen, chairman of the steering committee, which was disbanded earlier this month, sent a letter to the Planning Board saying the committee will assist “with a formal invitation from the Planning Board.”
Cohen’s letter also criticized the move by Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, to dissolve the steering committee. He termed the move a “premature, political power play” and wrote that it is an insult to the committee and “shows disrespect to the citizens of Rowan County.”
Planning Board Chairman Terry Hill said if the board ends up needing insight or an explanation on the draft recommendations, they might consider asking a member of the committee. But Hill said the study is now before the Planning Board.
Ann Furr questioned the push to have all the workshops in September, asking for more time.
Hill said the goal is to have a public hearing and vote on the land-use study at the Sept. 22 meeting and send it on to the Board of Commissioners.
Ben Knox, who served on the Steering Committee, spoke briefly during public comment. Knox urged the board not to rush. “Commissioners are pushing … rush, rush, rush. I implore you to take your time.”
The Planning Board will hold the first workshop Sept. 4, with other meetings tentatively scheduled for Sept. 8 and Sept. 11, all at 5 p.m. in the Cohen Administrative Offices Building, 130 W. Innes St.
Much of the discussion Monday night centered on whether the board will make or recommend changes to the draft land-use plan or simply vote to recommend approval or rejection of the plan.
Planning Board Vice Chairman Mac Butner repeatedly called for a vote up or down, adding that he wouldn’t be able to attend any of the workshops because of prior commitments.
Butner said by going through the plan and making recommendations for changes, the Planning Board is creating a second land-use plan. Butner left no doubt that he believes the Planning Board should have been assigned the task of developing the land-use plan to start with.
At this point, Butner said, for the Planning Board to spend a month on project the steering committee spent a year on is “a bit of an insult to the steering committee.”
The board took a straw vote and decided to go forward with the workshops and review.
But Hill said the ultimate vote may be to send the plan to the Board of Commissioners with a recommendation to reject or approve.
During a brief discussion of the plan, Carl Ford said he can’t support the plan as it is. Ford said the county can use zoning to deal with many of the issues addressed in the plan.
Edwin Hammill spoke out in favor of farmland preservation.
One other former steering committee member spoke, calling for recognition of market forces on how the county develops and the expected commercial growth along major highways and existing rail corridors. Jeff Morris, a Spencer attorney, urged the Planning Board to add amendments specifically to recognize the link between market forces and economic development.

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