Planning board to hold hearing on land use study

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 24, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY ó The county planning board will hold a public hearing Monday on its draft of an east Rowan land use study.
At a workshop held Tuesday, the Rowan County Planning board voted unanimously to set the courtesy hearing for the planning boardís next meeting.
The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday on the second floor of the J. Newton Cohen Sr. Administration Building, 130 W. Innes St., Salisbury.
County commissioners asked for the study in May, after noting that the western part of the county has had a plan in place for more than four years.
The land use plan for areas east of Interstate 85 would be used as a guide for growth and development there.
In September, the planning board invited feedback on the study recommendations at three public workshops.
On Oct. 31, a committee unanimously recommended the draft for consideration by the full planning board.
ěIs there any significant difference between the east Rowan land use plan and the west Rowan land use plan we approved a few years ago,î asked Board Chairman Mac Butner on Tuesday, ěor are we basically mirroring that plan?î
Ed Muire, county planning director, answered that the recommendations are basically the same.
Board member Craig Pierce said the committee focused on areas along N.C. 152, U.S. 52 and I-85 where no municipality has jurisdiction.
ěWe made a big attempt to make the county more business friendly down major highway corridors,î Pierce said. ěIf any major corporations or small companies wanted to come in, zoning is set up to make it quick and accessible for them to get their permits and start their operation.î
Board member Joe Teeter said he appreciated efforts made in this study, as in the first one, to safeguard property rights.
Fire protection
Also at the workshop Tuesday, the planning board voted 5-3 to send a draft fire prevention and protection ordinance back to committee to make some changes.
The ordinance would establish fines for fire code violations, creating a civil enforcement process, and clarify local rules.
County commissioners considered the draft Sept. 8 and sent it back to the planning board for further review. That board then referred it to committee.
On Nov. 9, a committee recommended by a vote of 4-1 not to institute the ordinance and to enforce the fire code through the current criminal process.
Muire said the current way is quicker, but it doesnít stop if a violation is corrected, and it could give a business owner a criminal record.
Pierce said the county may need to pass an ordinance to allow a civil enforcement process, but he couldnít approve the current draft.
ěThere were a lot of areas where I felt like there was too much restriction and too much regulation,î Pierce said. ěBut I donít think that the entire document needs to be recalled.î
He said he has marked some suggested changes on his copy of the draft and would be glad to send them to the fire marshalís office.
Board member John Linker said he was the one who voted against the committeeís recommendation, because it makes sense to use a civil process instead of a criminal one to cut down on staff costs and legal fees.
Tom Murphy, Rowan County fire marshal, said his office has so far avoided taking out a criminal summons in the past few years. He said he prefers to correct violations by making multiple visits and talking to the offenders.
ěWe knew this (ordinance) was coming, and we thought the civil citation was the way to go,î Murphy said.
Teeter said the county should try enforcement through the criminal process before passing an ordinance to set up civil penalties.
ěHow do we know there is a problem with the system currently in place if we havenít tried it at all?î he said.
As presented by the fire marshalís office, the new ordinance also would have implemented fees for construction permits and operational permits.
Those fees were removed from the draft after feedback from the committee.
The fire marshalís office suggested the fees, Murphy said, simply because the county might want the additional revenue. He said developers already expect to pay for those permits because surrounding counties all charge for them.
A majority of the board voted to send the draft ordinance back to committee, along with changes recommended by Pierce.
Teeter dissented, along with board members Melanie Earle and Steve Poteat.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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