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Workshops offer opportunity to voice opinions on land-use plans

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
The public will get a chance this week to weigh in on a land-use study that includes proposals for impact fees for residential subdivisions and several proposals to promote farmland preservation.
The workshops will be:
– Thursday, July 10 at West Rowan High School from 5 to 8 p.m.
– Tuesday, July 15, at South Rowan High School, 5 to 8 p.m.
Some members of the steering committee have predicted a large part of the recommendations will be dead on arrival at the Rowan County Planning Board, which will review it, conduct a public hearing and make recommendations to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
The plans include substantial recommendations to guide future development of western and southern Rowan County, but most of the discussion by the Land Use Steering Committee has focused on farmland preservation and adequate public facility fees otherwise known as impact fees.
County planners and planners from Benchmark, the Kannapolis-based consulting firm hired to guide the study, have repeatedly made clear they don’t believe the farmland preservation, impact fees and some other recommendations should be part of the study.
Jason Epley of Benchmark told the committee last month that it has gone beyond the mission county commissioners gave it. He said the committee was charged with producing a land-use study, not doing a comprehensive land-use plan.
Ed Muire, county planning director, also advised the committee that he believes impact or adequate public facilities fees are illegal. He cited a state court ruling in Durham County that required the return of several million dollars in fees to developers. He cited other ongoing court challenges to fees in other counties.
Some committee members initially suggested an impact fee with all proceeds going to the schools.
The committee agreed with a suggestion from James Rollans to change the wording directing fees be utilized to fund public facilities in western Rowan.
At the June 3 session of the steering committee, Rollans, a West Rowan farmer, argued that planning for the western area should be based solely on soil types as a way to protect soils for farming.
Committee member Jeff Morris, an attorney from Spencer, contended that to base planning and zoning on soil types would be illegal.
Morris offered a motion that soil types not be the sole consideration for land-use recommendations. The motion carried 4 to 2 with Rollans and Ben Knox, also a West Rowan farmer, voting against.
Although the workshops will focus on the western plan, residents of other areas of the county may opt to weigh-in.
Commissioners have indicated the western plan will serve as the basis for further land-use planning for Eastern Rowan.
Also, officials point out that commissioners couldn’t enact impact fees or farmland preservation measures for half the county. Measures related to fees, taxation and funding would have to apply to the entire county.
A copy of the the land-use study and recommendations is available at that county Web site atwww.co.rowan.nc.us/GOVERNMENT/Departments/PlanningDevelopment/LandUsesteering/tabid/705/Default.aspx.
Click on general study report draft recommendations for the report. Click on General Study Report survey to fill out the survey.
Comments from the workshops and online survey will be compiled and taken into consideration when the Land Use Steering Committee holds its final meeting to complete its recommendations. That meeting is expected to be later this month.
Commissioners appointed the 11-member committee in May 2001 to work with planning staff and Benchmark.
It’s the second county attempt to develop a land-use plan. The county pulled the plug in 2005 on an effort by the Urban Institute of UNCC to do a comprehensive plan. The Institute used graduate students to develop plans for various areas of the county using planning models unfamiliar to the committee, which led to confusion and frustration.

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