Commissioners to wait until February to deal with land-use planning

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

Two words — property rights — reverberated around the Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday evening.

Commissioners expect to hear the phrase a lot more in the coming months.

Commissioners opted to wait until late February to tackle the issue of land-use planning — whether the county will do a land-use plan or what type.

Members of the newly formed Rowan Property Rights Alliance and others took every opportunity to be heard Monday night, repeatedly calling on commissioners to stand up for private property owners.

At times, they applauded speakers and commissioners on issues ranging from land-use planning to historic landmark designations.

Four of five commissioners showed no willingness for a holiday plunge into land-use planning.

Newly-elected Commissioner Jon Barber wanted to take a new look at land-use planning.

Barber asked that the planning staff put together a presentation on the different types of land-use planning and make it prior to the upcoming retreat in late February.

“I’m not advocating to do them (land-use plans),” said Barber, adding that all counties along the Interstate 85 corridor have land-use plans except for Rowan.

He also pointed to the town of Cleveland and its start on doing a land-use plan.

“Let’s go ahead and put it on the table, get public input, decide what we are going to do,” Barber said.

“Let’s table it to 2008,” joked Commissioner Jim Sides, “Let the next board deal with it.

“Anybody that tells you (that land-use planning) won’t take your rights away is lying,” Sides said.

Barber said the county is already moving to more restrictive zoning on such things as nightclubs and asphalt plants.

Vice Chairman Chad Mitchell said he continues to be ambivalent toward land-use planning, suggesting that it’s a topic best served at the retreat.

Commissioner Tina Hall agreed.

The board agreed by consensus to tackle the issue at the retreat, which is tentatively scheduled for the Frank T. Tadlock South Rowan Regional Library in late February. The exact dates have not been set.

During public comment, at least two speakers voiced support for land-use planning.

Bill Godair, pastor of Cornerstone Church, said he can’t imagine not having a plan. “I hope we have a great plan,” Godair said, citing the growth the county is facing.

Eric Marsh, a farmer from the southern end of the county, compared a land-use plan to having a blueprint to build a home or business.

“If you don’t have a blueprint, you get Charlotte,” said Marsh, urging commissioners to take action to protect farmland and the quality of life in Rowan County.

Dale Wagstaff, co-chairman of the Rowan Property Rights Alliance, said there is room for compromise. He said controlling where water, sewer and roads go will have a major impact on where development occurs.

Another issue that drew the attention of property rights advocates involved the county’s Historic Landmark Commission.

Commissioners unanimously approved a six-month moratorium on the Rowan Historic Landmarks Commission designating new landmarks.

Planning Director Ed Muire suggested the county invite officials from the State Historic Properties Office to meet with commissioners and explain their requirements. A requirement that property can be designated as a landmark without the owner’s approval touched off a brouhaha earlier this month.

“You need to know that was dead on arrival. There’s no way this board will approve anything without the owner’s consent,” said Chairman Arnold Chamberlain.

Rod Whedbee and Wagstaff, co-chairmen of Rowan Property Rights, both spoke during the public hearing on the moratorium.

Wagstaff spoke up for the county planning staff, saying they often end up in the middle of disagreements. “We’re not attacking them,” he said.

Ann Brownlee, president of the Trading Ford Historic Association, said all the purported linkage between her group and the Landmark Commission is a surprise. She said her group has made no request or contacts to the commission.

Earlier this month, speakers appeared to suggest a connection between Trading Ford and the Landmark Commission bent on stopping a planned road course in the Trading Ford area.