Spencer says no to county’s rezoning request Rebuilding project would go against long-range plans

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

SPENCER — Spencer aldermen on Tuesday denied Rowan County’s request to rezone 15 acres from industrial to residential so the county could use a federal grant to rebuild a dilapidated house.
Aldermen followed the recommendation of the Spencer Planning Board to deny the request.
Although the eight parcels are residential — the area along U.S. 29 North and Yadkin Baptist Church Road comprises a small neighborhood with several houses and a church — they are encompassed within a larger industrial area, said Price Wagoner, the new town planner.
Rezoning the parcels to residential would contradict the town’s long-range land use plan, Wagoner said.
Rowan County Planning Director Ed Muire said the county won a $400,000 scattered site housing grant to rehabilitate six houses throughout the county, as well as demolish and rebuild the house in Spencer.
But to use the grant, the Spencer property must be rezoned. Homes in industrial areas can be rebuilt only within a specific time period, and the dilapidated house that qualified for the grant has been vacant for years.
Alderman Jeff Morris asked why the county was requesting the zoning and not the property owners. Muire said he had worked with the property owners on the grant and rezoning applications, and everyone in the proposed area was in favor of the rezoning.
Although several people who live in the area attended Tuesday night’s meeting, no one spoke at the public hearing.
Wagoner said he considered the homeowners to be the petitioners, supported by Rowan County. He said the property owners were “mixed” in their support of the initiative.
Wagoner also said this area of U.S. 29 will soon become a major corridor once again into Spencer.
Spencer saw only 13 new structures built in the town between 1990 and 2000, Muire said.
“We are talking about building a new house here,” he said.
Spencer leaders and residents often express concern about rental property in the town, but this neighborhood is owner-occupied, Muire said.
Most residential property sales in Spencer are to commercial entities that use the homes as rentals, he said, adding that developers who want to buy land in the town’s industrial areas would look for larger tracts, not the small lots in question.
Unconvinced, aldermen voted 5 to 1 against the rezoning. Scott Benfield cast the dissenting vote.
They encouraged Muire to reapply for rezoning to highway business instead of residential, which Wagoner said would be consistent with the town’s long-range land use plan.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.