Workshop on land use plan draws small but vocal crowd

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
An information workshop on the proposed land use plan for western Rowan netted a sparse turnout Thursday evening.
Around 50 people, mostly those involved in some phase of the land use study process, stopped by the session at West Rowan High School.
Those not involved in the process appeared to split almost evenly on their view of the proposed plan. Some praised the provisions to preserve farmland, while others said the county needs to leave landowners alone.
Gene Myers of Godbey Road, developer of the Falcon Crest subdivision, called the plan misguided, saying property owners are doing a fine job of looking after their own property. “Leave us alone,” Myers said, adding, “We’ve paid our dues.”
Myers also opposes a proposal to add a per-lot impact fee for new development.
Bob Houck and wife, Beth, who live on Sloan Road, found little in the plan to their liking, suggesting the county ought to leave property owners alone.
Barbara Earnhardt, an eastern Rowan resident who also owns property on Needmore Road, called for more efforts to preserve farmland.
Earnhardt said the county should restart its program to buy development rights on farmland, citing the need to have land to grow food.
Andy Hinson, a western Rowan farmer and former chairman of the Rowan County Planning Board, said all the county needs to do is remove major subdivisions as a permitted use in rural agricultural zoning districts.
That would force developers to seek rezoning and eliminate the scary situation that exists now, Hinson said.
Jason Epley, a planner with Benchmark, told participants the proposed plan won’t prevent anyone from selling or developing their land. Instead, it will encourage different types of development depending on the location.
Two candidates for county commissioner, Democrat Raymond Coltrain and Republican Carl Ford, talked with those attending the session and made the rounds of the various stations.
“It’s better than nothing at all,” said Coltrain, adding support for the farmland preservation proposals. But figuring out the right method is the question, Coltrain said.
Ford, who has attended many of the land use committee meetings, said the plan has some good ideas in the plan, but he can’t support the entire plan.
Ford, who is also a member of the Planning Board, said he expects that board to go through the plan with a highlighter and a red pen, keeping some elements and cutting others.
Ford said he will never support impact fees, which he contends are illegal.
County commissioners Arnold Chamberlain and Tina Hall talked with many of those attending the workshop.
Each person also got a survey form asking their opinion on more than two dozen elements of the plan.
An identical survey will be available at South Rowan High School Tuesday for the final workshop. That meeting, in the school cafeteria, takes place from 5 to 8 p.m.
The Land Use Steering Committee will review comments from the workshops as well as the on-line survey before making its final recommendations for the plan.
Most of the committee members attended the workshop along with the county planing staff.
To read the draft plan or fill out a survey use this link