Kannapolis to decide Monday if LandTrust parcel rules to change

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 27, 2012

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS — In the current economy, the LandTrust for Central North Carolina’s original plans for a massive, state-owned game preserve are no longer feasible.
So on Monday, the Kannapolis City Council will decide whether to allow modifications to the covenants in place on a portion of the Second Creek land currently owned by the LandTrust.
The group hopes to sell 203 acres to a private buyer, with similar conservation easements in place — no commercial or industrial uses, plus limits on tree removal, agriculture and other uses.
LandTrust Executive Director Jason Walser said the original goal of a large state game land is no longer feasible.
And, as the LandTrust was unable to purchase additional parcels, other buyers have done so, but with permission to build a limited number of homes.
Last year, Ron Horton of Waxhaw purchased the final 708 acres of Second Creek land from Kannapolis, with similar covenants in place.
But the sale to Horton, for about $1.4 million, allowed for up to seven home sites to be built.
The LandTrust had hoped to purchase that parcel for $1 million, but was outbid.
The 2008 sale of 368 acres to Smith-Moore, LLC — Tom Smith and Johnny Moore — also included a restriction of no more than one home per 100 acres.
The city staff’s report to members of the Kannapolis City Council, part of Monday’s agenda, states that the changes “would permit the sale of the 203 acres of the remaining property allowing for up to two (2) homes, garage, a barn, and other farm related structures (i.e., some fences and sheds).”
Kannapolis will have the power to determine “the configuration and location of all structures … based upon the impact on the quantity or quality of water in Second Creek streams which may affect the City’s water supply.”
City Manager Mike Legg said the sale would help the LandTrust relieve its financial burdens.
Walser said that after last year’s sale to Horton, “we realized that we would not be able to complete the Wildlife Resources Commission Game Lands vision for the property.”
One of the chief goals of the Second Creek land sale was to protect Kannapolis’ water supply.
Decades ago, Cannon Mills purchased more than 2,800 acres as the site of a proposed reservoir.
Kannapolis later decided the reservoir wasn’t necessary, and leased the land to farmers.
Today, though the land has been sold off, the city still operates a pump station nearby and Second Creek is still a potential water source.
“We intend to fully protect the water intake of Kannapolis,” Walser said
He added that, in the years since the LandTrust purchased land along Second Creek, cattle grazing on the land no longer have open access to the stream.
“I would expect that the water quality is better now,” Walser said.
At the same time, he said, about 1,100 acres were sold to the state, and are open to the public for recreation and hunting on a limited basis.
Now, he said, “about 1,700 acres are going to be privately owned … back on the tax base in Cabarrus County.”
“It’s not what we wanted, ideally, but we still think it’s a conservation victory. Especially in these economic times, we’ll take what we can get.”
If the Kannapolis City Council votes to accept the changes and allow home sites on the 208-acre parcel, and the land is sold to a private buyer, the city would become responsible for enforcing those regulations.
“They have perpetual rights to enforce it, and they have lots of legal remedies,” Walser said.
And, he said, North Carolina’s courts have a strong history of upholding such easements.
Legg said that, because the city operates a pump station nearby, officials will be in the area and noting anything unusual.
The Kannapolis City Council meets Monday at 6 p.m. at the Kannapolis Train Station, 201 S. Main St.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.