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Locals unhappy with company’s proposal to build near China Grove

SALISBURY — Despite fierce opposition from locals, the Rowan County Planning Board on Monday voted in favor of a rezoning that allows an erosion control company to set up shop near China Grove.

Chad Crainshaw, the Vice President of Knox Contract Seeding, asked for the rezoning. The business was incorporated in 1994 and applies grass seed to prevent soil runoff, according to documents provided as part of the rezoning packet. Knox Contract Seeding proposes to build a facility on 3.72 acres of land at the intersection of NC 152 and Menius Road, which is currently zoned rural agricultural. The rezoning would change the property to the county’s commercial, business and industrial classification with specific limits on what can be built.

Monday’s vote was Crainshaw’s second shot at a rezoning. In March, Crainshaw pulled a rezoning request before Rowan County Commissioners could deny it, a move that avoided a waiting period between denials.

In an effort to satisfy locals, Crainshaw now has submitted a narrowly tailored rezoning that would only apply to his business. It would not transfer in the event of a sale. Following Monday’s vote, the rezoning will head back to county commissioners, who could follow the Planning Board’s recommendation or go a different route.

Monday’s meeting lasted more than two hours and, although other items were on the agenda, Crainshaw’s rezoning consumed most of the time. Three locals spoke during Monday’s meeting and expressed a wide range of concerns — from large trucks creating noise and excess traffic to the proposed business changing the character of the neighborhood.

“Say you lived down in our neck of the woods and you just invested $250,000 or $275,000 in a nice house and you’ve got a nice view, well now you’re going to be looking at this,” said David Harmon-Esquivel, who lives near the rezoning site.

Rick Pinyan, who also lives near the site, said he isn’t anti-business. Instead, Pinyan said he doesn’t want his neighborhood to change.

In an attempt to address concerns raised Monday, the Rowan County Planning Board included several conditions as part of its vote. In a motion to approve the rezoning, board member Pete Bogle asked that trees be planted outside of a chain-link fence, that Crainshaw researches whether it’s possible to move a driveway away from nearby houses and that lighting at the business be shielded from nearby houses. Bogle’s motion passed unanimously among the board members present.

Bogle’s motion and the unanimous vote came after a barrage of questions directed at Crainshaw and local attorney Jeremy Carter, who attended the meeting with Crainshaw.

“I think there’s a whole lot of ‘not in my backyard’ going on when, in fact, everybody’s backyard is in a highway corridor,” Carter said, referencing NC 152. “That makes it a difficult decision for you guys. It’s really the test case for what you guys mean by highway business corridor.”

Most questions from the board focused on the specific site plan for Knox Contract Seeding’s proposed business. Knox Contract Seeding’s site plan matters because, if approved, no other business layout could be used on site. If another business opened up or if Knox Contract Seeding decided to shift its layout, the business would have to return for a subsequent approval.

Board member Darlene Blount asked a number of questions about whether the business’ driveway could be moved away from houses. Crainshaw said he had already obtained permission from the Department of Transportation to place his driveway in the location shown on site plans. He also expressed hesitation about whether moving the driveway would affect business operations.

Planting trees outside of the chain-link fence was another a question asked by board members. Crainshaw didn’t express any opposition to the idea.

Despite the conditions included in Monday’s vote, Pinyan said he didn’t feel as if the board listened to his concerns. Another local resident said Knox Contract Seeding’s site plan appears to show a fence and greenery encroaching on his property.

After the meeting, local residents confronted Rowan County Planning Department staff, reiterating previous concerns and bringing up some new ones.

Local residents will have one final shot to express opposition to the rezoning during an upcoming county commissioners meeting, but it’s currently unclear which meeting that might be. Commissioners would need to schedule a public hearing before considering the rezoning.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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