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Board approves East Rowan land use plan

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — Eastern Rowan County now has its very own land use plan to match the one for the west.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners approved the Land Use Plan for Areas East of I-85 by a vote of 4-1 at Tuesday’s meeting.
Commissioners asked for a land use study for the eastern part of the county in May of 2011.
The county planning board and staff studied several research topics in the area, and they then developed a plan to mirror the one approved for west Rowan in 2009.
“Tonight’s public hearing is the culmination of a process that began in June of last year,” said Planning Director Ed Muire. “It involved numerous committee meetings and three different workshops in the east Rowan study area.”
The document will serve only as a guide for future growth and development, according to Muire. It sets up industrial and commercial corridors around I-85, U.S. 29 and part of U.S. 52.
Commercial development also will be encouraged at several community nodes, as well as a regional node around the Old Beatty Ford Road area. Local residents have been working to get an Interstate 85 interchange there.
“This plan gets us by with the state,” said Commissioner Carl Ford. “They require us to have a plan to sort of speed up funding for I-85. If you know anything about southern end of county and I-85, it becomes a parking lot almost every day — especially on Fridays.”
Commissioner Jim Sides cast the only vote against the plan.
“We have countywide zoning, and I don’t personally believe we need anything different than that — certainly not a land use plan,” Sides said. “But I think our staff is to be commended for… writing something that is simple, direct and to the point.”
Ford said he agrees that the county doesn’t need any more restrictions on property, but he thinks this plan is a good one. He contrasted it with a rejected proposal for the western part of the county, which he called “a little intrusive, to say the least.”
The plan adopted Tuesday aims to preserve the rural nature of Rowan County while making it business-friendly, planning officials have said. It sets guidelines for three major areas of eastern Rowan County.
Area One lies south of Bringle Ferry Road, east of Union Church and Barger Roads and northeast of U.S. 52.
The plan recommends agricultural activities in this area, along with rural industrial development in major thoroughfares where there is limited conflict with residential uses.
Area Two is made up of land adjacent to the county’s eastern municipalities and High Rock Lake.
According to the plan, medium density residential development is appropriate here, along with “service-oriented development.” Industrial uses will be discouraged, except for existing industrial districts and highway corridors.
Area Three runs south of N.C. 152, east of U.S. 29 and south of U.S. 52.
Mixed use development will be encouraged in this area, and the plan recommends “clustering” small residential tracts together to preserve farmland and open space.
The document keeps wording included in the western plan recognizing property rights and prohibiting public trails across private land unless the property owner consents.
For more information about the East Rowan Land Use Study, or to view maps of the study area, visit the Rowan County Planning Department website at www.rowancountync.gov.

In other business
Rowan County Commissioners also:

• Approved a Community Development Block Grant application that could allow Magna Composites to expand and add 60 jobs in Rowan County.
The $360,000 grant would help pay for $500,000 in needed upgrades to the sewer system serving Magna’s facility, which employs about 300 people. The rest of the funding would come from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities as a local match.
• Asked the planning board to draft an ordinance banning tobacco products in all county-owned parks. The ordinance then will come back to commissioners for a public hearing and a final vote.
Commissioners Raymond Coltrain and Chad Mitchell dissented in the 3-2 vote Tuesday.
• Approved the purchase of 4 acres at Young’s Mountain for $30,000 from John Jenkins. The land will be used for the location of a 911 communications tower.
• Declined to appoint a committee to consider changes to the structure of the Board of Commissioners.
Commissioner Jon Barber suggested the committee explore whether the board should expand from five to seven members or have a new election method. Instead of being elected from the whole county, commissioners could be chosen from within geographical districts.
Barber said these changes could be made by referendum or a local bill. Coltrain seconded his motion, but it failed 2-3.
• Awarded a $177,900 contract – funded entirely by donations – to Harris Miniature Golf Courses for the design and construction of two miniature golf courses at Dan Nicholas Park.
• Approved an agreement with Sprint Wireless to install a bi-directional amplifier in the sheriff’s office to improve cellphone coverage inside the building.
• Adopted policies stating that full-time employees hired after Tuesday will pay 10 percent of their health insurance cost, and that employees hired after Tuesday will not be offered retiree health insurance.
The board agreed to make these two policy changes during the 2011-12 budget process but never formally took action on them.
• Recognized the Rowan Public Library for receipt of awards from the State Library of North Carolina.
• Approved a budget amendment for the Department of Social Services to reflect actual amounts for donations and reserve accounts.

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