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East Spencer talks growth at Tuesday planning retreat

East Spencer’s board talked growth at its Tuesday planning retreat with its Gateway Plan and re-creating its downtown area at the center of the discussion.

While the board’s intentions weren’t to make final decisions during the retreat they did create some action plans as to how to accomplish their many goals for the coming year and beyond.

Among the other items discussed at length were the water/sewer system, the Dunbar Center and partnerships with other area agencies.

Gateway Plan

The plan is is designed to create some type of development around and near Interstate 85 at Exit 79 and Andrews Street.

The plan is in the final draft stage and shows how potential developers can use the plan, said Darren Rhodes.

Rhodes, who facilitated Tuesday’s retreat is with the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Andrews Street is located right off the interstate and is the road that connects East Spencer to the interstate.

Although the idea to develop that area has been floating around East Spencer for more than 10 years, the town has recently been making active steps to put zoning in place and making any necessary amendments to its ordinances.

There are possibilities in that space for a convenience store similar to Sheetz, a casual dining restaurant, a department store, a bank, a distribution center, a hotel similar to Marriott, or a fast food restaurant.

One such example in the plan that would provide $5.7 million in employee wages includes four fast food restaurants, three casual dining establishments, two hotels, a gas station, a department store and a distribution center. This example would also create 660 new jobs and give the town an estimated $370,086 in tax revenue.
Fred Summers with N.C. Rural Water Association asked if the parcels were privately held or were they owned by individuals. Town Administrator Macon Sammons Jr. said mostly privately held, but some are owned by individuals.
Mayor Barbara Mallett sent letters to those property owners about two years ago just to inquire if they’d be willing to sell property so that the town could redevelop it. She has said the majority of the feedback she received was positive.
The town hopes to incorporate Royal Giants Park into the plan. Rhodes said what makes this plan interesting is because most interchanges don’t have a park nearby.
“A plan is just a plan be we hope to use the plan to guide development,” Rhodes said.
Mallett said she wants to include others – county and state government — in on the planning so that the town is in line with plans those entities may have.

Water/Sewer

Marty Wilson with the N.C. Rural Water Association spoke to the board about how the nonprofit has worked with the town to determine if there were leaks in its water/sewer system. Wilson said there was not one big leak, but a series of smaller leaks.

He said the problem was not that unusual. The state average is 15 percent water loss.

Wilson said they’ve identified about 20 leaks and they’ve been fixed.

Salisbury-Rowan Utilities provides sewer and water services to the town.

Wilson posed the question that perhaps the town should  renegotiate their contract or consider having the town hire staff to maintain its water/sewer system itself.

“A steering committee can help determine that,” Wilson said.

Wilson said some towns give their system over to another town as an option.
“Every water system is different. It doesn’t mean it will work for you,” he said.

Summers said they found some unmetered water, meaning there are some who are receiving water that isn’t being tracked by a meter.

“Water and sewer is critical. If it’s not healthy it won’t grow,” Summers said.

Dunbar Center

One of the goals the town set is to either remove or rebuild the Dunbar Center. However, before rebuilding or removal can happen the town must talk with the property owner. The board suggested sitting down with F&M Bank, who holds the loan, and Shady Grove Baptist Church, the property owner.

Alderwoman Phronice Johnson said if the property owner doesn’t want the Dunbar Center then her suggestion would be to give it to the town.

Town Attorney Jeff Morris said before the town tries to acquire the property it should make sure an environmental impact study has been performed on the property and building or either have one done.

Initiatives

Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy Jenkins offered the college as a resource for any of the town’s needs.

“Livingstone College is willing to work with you,” Jenkins said.

He spoke about its hospitality management program that will move into the former Holiday Inn hotel on South Jake Alexander Boulevard.

The college plans to use the old hotel for dorms, classrooms, meeting spaces and training kitchens for its culinary program.

Jenkins said the former hotel will be the largest banquet and conference facility in Salisbury.

In an answer to Summers’ question about whether Novant Health would be interested in putting a health care clinic in East Spencer, Novant Health Foundation Rowan Medical Center Executive Director Rick Parker essentially said yes.

The health care system is already looking into bringing a federally qualified health care center to the town. The health care center would not be a free clinic, but would be similar to China Grove Family Medicine in the southern part of the county.

A grant application has been filed and the two entities should hear back in May, Parker said.

Mallett has long advocated for a health care facility in East Spencer.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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