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County to appeal city’s West End Plaza permit denial

Rowan County Commissioners plan to appeal a decision by the Salisbury City Council to deny a special use permit request for government services at the former Salisbury Mall.
County attorney Jay Dees said in an email that he had received authorization from county commissioners during a Monday closed session to proceed with an appeal if the city denied the permit. The appeal will be to superior court in the form of a writ of certiorari, which is a petition for the court to hear the matter.
The county has 30 days from the date of the city’s order being received to file an appeal. Dees said he is working the city of Salisbury to generate the final order, which would allow the county to proceed with its appeal.
In his email, Dees argued there were some glaring misapplications of standards used by the city in its findings.
“In my experience as a zoning lawyer for the past 14 years, yesterday’s decision was difficult on many levels,” Dees said in the email. “As a pure zoning case, there is no doubt that it should have been approved factually and councilman (Brian) Miller had it correct that the simple question was whether this proposed use was appropriate for this location. After limiting the application to 40,000 square feet, the council still remained concerned over the long-term expansion of governmental services.”
When the Salisbury City Council voted 4-1 to deny the special use permit for government services, Miller was the lone vote in favor of granting the request.
During a presentation on Tuesday, Dees and Rowan County Planning Department director Ed Muire offered a concession to the council, which would limit government space to 40,000 square feet in the 326,000-square-foot facility. The concession limited government departments being relocated to Veterans Services, the Board of Elections and maintenance. The concession left out other departments that were discussed as possible tenants of what is now called West End Plaza, including social services and the county’s health department.
Rowan County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Craig Pierce said the concession was offered because Veterans Services, the Board of Elections and maintenance are the only departments that could be relocated in the near future.
“Those are the only things that we can financially do right now,” Pierce said. “To even consider the other possibilities inside of this special use permit would be premature because we don’t have the funding agent in place to be able to do anything else other than those 40,000 square feet.”
Pierce said commissioners aren’t currently considering a conditional district overlay, which was referenced during Tuesday’s council meeting. Councilwoman Karen Alexander said a conditional district overlay would be a better route for the county because it required distinct plans for the West End Plaza’s future.
“(The city’s) planning board wanted us to do a special use permit, and if they wanted us to do a CD they should have told us that up front,” Pierce said. “Now, we’ve already wasted all this time. We still haven’t taken care of the needs of our Board of Elections and Veterans Services office.”
Pierce said the city’s request for West End Plaza master plan — required as a part of the conditional district overlay — cannot be done.
“We can’t give them that because we have leases signed with people that range anywhere from one to five years, and we don’t know when they are going to vacate,” he said. “You can’t just take an existing business and throw them out the door. To come up with a complete master plan is ludicrous.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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