Planning board recommends rezoning for new fairgrounds building

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 9, 2013

SALISBURY — After a long discussion among Salisbury Planning Board members about zoning, the Rowan County Fair Association earned preliminary approval Tuesday to construct a 9,000-square-foot exhibit hall on Julian Road.
City Council still has to approve the rezoning request, which must occur before the building can go up. The fair association has a grant to help pay for the building but has a tight deadline, so the city’s development team fast-tracked the request.
The metal building would stand at 1560 Julian Road and host a variety of events year-round — even wedding receptions — to help generate revenue for the fair association, said engineer David Morton of China Grove, who spoke on behalf of the association.
The planning board agreed to recommend that City Council rezone about 24 acres of land from rural residential to highway business. The land is on the fairgrounds but in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, which makes it subject to the city’s zoning requirements and Land Development Ordinance.
Planning board members went back and forth when considering the rezoning request and Conditional District overlay, which would allow about 40 uses for the land from a 200-unit apartment building to a dog kennel.
The rezoning and overlay would stay with the property, even if the fair association sells it.
Although the city offers entertainment/recreation zoning, which includes amusement parks and recreation facilities, the fair association requested the much broader highway business designation.
“My problem with that is when they open it to upzoning and allow for as many uses as possible for just-in-case scenarios, that sort of avoids the use for planning,” board member Josh Canup said. “They need to narrow it to necessary uses.”
But Morton said the broader zoning category would make the property more valuable, so the fair association would have more options for financing “down the road.”
“They want the property to be as valuable as it can be,” he said. “The more restrictions you put on it, the less valuable it is.”
Some board members questioned opening the property to so many uses when some surrounding areas are still zoned rural residential. Others said the area is a growing commercial and industrial area, with a large apartment complex — The Grand on Julian — near the proposed rezoning.
Morton said the fair association needs more ways to generate revenue year-round if it will continue operating the annual Rowan County Fair.
He said although the fair drew large crowds nearly every night this year, rain on the final night was a disaster for revenue.
Planning Board Chairman Carl Repsher said he supported the rezoning request.
“Looking at that area and thinking about what’s around it, none of these suggestions look to me offensive in any way to surrounding property owners,” Repsher said. “My inclination would be to be as supportive as we can as a community and make that entity survive and make it thrive.”
The board voted 8-1 to recommend the rezoning, with Jo-ann Hoty voting no.
The rezoning request is scheduled to go before City Council on Nov. 5.
The Planning Board delayed a separate request to rezone 805 Faith Road from residential to corridor mixed use because of additional interest in rezoning from nearby property owners, City Planner Trey Cleaton said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.