City Council approves government services for mall, praises new county leadership

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Salisbury City Council Tuesday approved a request from the county to use the former Salisbury mall for government services.

After the drama of last year’s debate over the mall, council’s denial of a special-use permit for the county, an election and the installment of new county leadership, council unanimously approved a Conditional District Overlay allowing government services as a permitted use on the 26-acre parcel of land the mall sits on at the corner of Jake Alexander and Statesville boulevards.

And no one spoke in opposition to the county’s request during a public hearing held at council’s meeting.

Greg Edds, County Board of Commissioners chairman, was the only commissioner at the meeting and spoke to council during the public hearing.

The county, by partnering with the city, will make the mall a “real gem,” he said, adding the county commissioners will sell “the entire community” on the plans for the mall.

Edds said the city and the county have bigger issues to deal with and that it is time to put the mall issue behind them.

He said the county’s space needs study, which should be released March 16 during the commissioners meeting, will likely show that the county faces major space needs in the coming years, especially for the Department of Social Services and the Health Department — the “elephant in the room” — as Edds put it.

He said the county has no desire to move anything out of downtown Salisbury and that downtown Salisbury is the “hub” of Rowan County.

But the county’s Board of Elections, located in the county administrative building on the 100 block of West Innes Street, has three full-time employees, and the county plans to move the department to the mall.

Council members attached the same conditions to their approval as the city’s Planning Board did last week.

The first condition is that the county’s proposed outside-storage area at the rear of the mall property must be visually blocked off from the residential area adjacent to the backside of the mall. Second, outdoor kenneling would not be allowed at the site — preventing the county from having an animal shelter at the mall. Third, Class 2 and 3 utilities, as defined by the city, would also be excluded as a use. This is so the county can’t turn the the property into a landfill or build a utility, such as a wastewater plant, at the site.

Council did not include a limit on the amount of space the county could use for government services at the 335,000-square-foot mall, now called the West End Plaza.

As part of its request, the county drew up a floor plan showing the potential layout for how the mall would be used. The floor plan includes 38,000 square feet of space for government services, most likely for the county’s maintenance department, Board of Elections and Veterans Services.

City Council could have held the county to the floor plan in its ruling — meaning the county would have to come back and get permission from the city if it wanted to increase the amount of space at the mall used for government services by 10 percent or more of the 38,000 square feet..

County Planning Director Ed Muir said holding the county to the floor plan would be a hindrance.

At one point, Councilwoman Karen Alexander wondered aloud whether council should table the mall issue until the county’s space needs study is released, but Edds urged council to take action during the meeing.

Before voting to approve the Conditional District Overlay, council members praised Edds and the new leadership on the county’s Board of Commissioners.

“Looking forward to cooperation,” Mayor Paul Woodson said about the city’s relationship with the county.

The word “trust” was used a lot by council members. Councilman Brian Miller said he trusts Edds and the new county leadership, adding he had a lack of trust in the county’s prior leadership.

Speaking about the drama over the mall last year, Mayor Paul Woodson said he knows the city put county officials through a lot, but that council had to look out for the city’s citizens.

In other business Tuesday, council:

• Proclaimed March 3 as both Kayla Honeycutt Day and Salisbury High School Girls Golf Day. Council honored the Salisbury High School girls golf team for winning the 2A state championship and Salisbury High’s Honeycutt for winning the 2A state championship in singles tennis.

• Adopted a resolution authorizing a contract, worth $194,795, with CCI Systems and also designated the company as a sole-source provider for the city. The city needs to update the core routers for its network, which CCI Systems has experience working with. Fibrant Director Kent Winrich said the routers handle all the data traffic on Fibrant and some on the city’s internal network.

He said CCI’s past experience and understanding of Fibrant is very important.

• Council went into closed session for about an hour to speak with the city’s attorney. No action was taken after the closed session.

• Received a petition requesting the permanent closure of an alley in the 600 block of North Church Street. A public hearing on the matter for is set for April 7.

• Adopted an ordinance to restrict parking along the east side of the 200 block of North Fulton Street where First Baptist Church has installed a handicap ramp.

• Voted to add 4-foot bicycle lanes on Confederate Avenue between Clubhouse Drive and Henderson Street. The city plans to have a bicycle-lane loop around City Park and Hurley Park.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.