Pierce: No convention center in West End Plaza master plan
Despite previous statements by county officials, Commissioner Craig Pierce wants every Rowan County taxpayer to know there are no plans to place a convention center in West End Plaza.
During a short commissioners’ meeting on Monday, Pierce specifically pulled an item off the consent agenda — items that usually are voted on as a group without discussion — to clarify the county’s facilities master plan does not include a convention center. He presented two powerpoint slides during Monday’s meeting to show evidence that there is no space specifically labeled convention center in the county’s master plan. Instead, on both options in the county’s master plan, space is labeled “conference/public assembly.”
He specifically referenced prior “media reports” saying misinformation is being spread about the master plan. A story published in the Salisbury Post on Sunday said the county’s master plan includes space for a convention center. Pierce was one of two commissioners to speak during the portion of the meeting where commissioners were considering changes to an events center rental policy.
Specifically, commissioners voted during Monday’s meeting to allow County Manager Aaron Church to purchase enough tables and chairs to accommodate 350 people. Commissioners also authorized Church to amend the policy to allow events to go to midnight instead of 11 p.m. The changes passed unanimously with limited discussion.
“I do not have a problem with what we have here,” Pierce said. “My concern is the misinformation that is being put out about our master plan in the media.”
Pierce said the master plan identifies a conference area, but not a convention center.
“I want the media to correct that now before they move forward saying we have this in our master plan when we do not,” Pierce said. “I’m not saying it won’t happen at a later date, but it’s not in there at this point and time.”
After his three-minute presentation, Pierce made a motion to approve the changes to the county’s events center policy.
Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds followed up Pierce’s speech by asking, “Does the media have that clear?”
Although, the master plan doesn’t explicitly identify a space called a convention center, Edds has spoken at length during and outside of meetings about commissioners’ intent to place a convention center at West End Plaza. During Commissioners August meeting, Edds said: “We’re talking about a convention center, we’re talking with Rowan-Cabarrus and the school system, about some other things.” Edds has said West End Plaza could become a hub for tourism.
County government routinely rents the former J.C. Penney at West End Plaza for events. The recently approved rental policy and its changes passed Monday are intended to allow various events to rent the former J.C. Penney space and serve beer and wine.
West End Plaza’s former J.C. Penney space is one of two possible locations identified the county’s master plan as “conference/public assembly.”
In other business from Monday’s meeting:
• Commissioners received a report on final financial numbers from the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
In the 2015 fiscal year, Assistant County Manager and Finance Director Leslie Heidrick said Rowan has seen a 5.5 percent sales tax revenue when compared to the prior year. In her presentation, Heidrick said expenditures were likewise slightly increased.
She said county staff expects sales tax revenue to continue climbing.
Commissioners questioned how sales tax changes made by the N.C. General Assembly during the 2015 session might affect future county revenues. As a part of the state’s budget, a new sales tax was created for repair, maintenance and installation services. Rowan would receive 3.9 percent of the new tax. Rowan is projected to be the fifth-biggest beneficiary.
Changes made by the legislature likely won’t mean any significant sales tax increases during the current fiscal year, Heidrick said. Instead, she said sales tax increases would affect the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2016.
• Commissioners rescheduled a public hearing for a rezoning in the Liberty community from Oct. 19 to Nov. 16.
The property that’s part of the rezoning is adjacent to Morgan School on Stokes Ferry Road. It’s also near the intersection of Stokes Ferry Road and St. Matthews Church Road. Venture Properties is requesting the property be rezoned from rural agricultural to the county’s commercial, business and industrial classification. A Dollar General is proposed at the site.
During the Rowan County Planning Board’s August meeting, a large crowd of people from the Liberty community opposed the idea.
• The rescheduled public hearing was passed as part of the consent agenda.
• Commissioners voted to purchase two ambulances for Rowan County Emergency Services at a cost not to exceed $347,370
It was passed as part of the consent agenda.
• Commissioners set the county’s Thanksgiving office hours. County offices will close at 1 p.m. on Nov. 25.
It was passed as part of the consent agenda.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.
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