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Granite Quarry residents unhappy about proposed SECU site, zoning confusion

GRANITE QUARRY — Residents and some business interests aired their concerns Monday night about the potential location of a State Employees Credit Union branch office on the northern end of town at Granite Place.

Most people said they weren’t opposed to a SECU branch in the town, but they argued it should be more centrally sited in the core area, for which Granite Quarry already has developed a downtown master plan.

The speakers at the Board of Aldermen’s monthly meeting also voiced their displeasure over zoning confusion along the North Salisbury Avenue (U.S. 52) area the SECU is interested in. Over the years, Granite Place has been partially developed off Granite Lane and Granite Street.

The proposed SECU branch would lead to an extension of Granite Street from Dunn’s Mountain Church Road to U.S. 52.

In July, the town’s Planning Board held a hearing in which the SECU was looking to change suburban residential zoning on the tract to highway business and, for a smaller portion, to multi-family residential.

After the SECU made its presentation at the July 11 hearing, 11 citizens spoke against the rezoning, and one was in favor.

Since then, it came to light the town’s zoning map was in error — the sites in question already were zoned highway business, the result of a settlement reached in a lawsuit brought against the town in 1994-96 by Palmer Development Co.

Palmer Development dropped the suit when the town agreed to the highway business zoning, but the complete zoning map change was never officially recorded by the town. Only a portion that was developed 20 years ago was colored in accurately, although the whole tract had been rezoned in connection with the lawsuit agreement.

Town Attorney Chip Short said Monday night a record of the agreement is on file at the Register of Deeds office and also reflected in the town minutes from 1996.

The present-day request to rezone the site highway business was withdrawn because it was determined the HB zoning already was in place. Mayor Bill Feather asked for — and received — a consensus from his fellow board members Monday night to have the maps corrected.

All of this did not sit well with the many people in the audience Monday night.

“The point is, there are a lot of questions out there,” said Ed Shell, a resident of Countryside. “… Do we have an accurate, complete picture of what has transpired?”

Shell said there needed to be transparency. “We need to know more, we need to see more,” he added, calling for an independent review. He also called on the board to rescind its action Monday night until it sees what really transpired from the mid 1990s to present day on this particular tract.

Paul Fisher, retired chairman of Granite Quarry-based F&M Bank, argued against the proposed location and said it would not work, Fisher said he also had warned 25 years earlier that the shopping center that once held Winn-Dixie on that end of town would not survive.

Fisher painted a picture of creating a strip of ill-conceived business development along U.S. 52 that would wreck Granite Quarry’s appearance and destroy its designation as a Tree City USA.

“We are a bedroom community,” Fisher said, “Let us stay a bedroom community.”

Steve Fisher, chief executive officer of F&M, said he was a strong advocate of the Granite Quarry Downtown Master Plan, whose whole emphasis is to direct business to the core.

“I feel  like we’re going in the opposite direction of this plan,” Steve Fisher said.

Gail Horton of Dunn’s Mountain Church Road, whose home is in close vicinity of the proposed SECU site, said the development would push out turkey, deer, foxes and other wildlife. She and others said there were places downtown that would better suit the credit union.

Several others spoke against the SECU site and expressed frustration over the zoning confusion, for which Feather apologized on behalf of the town and staff.

Bob Anderson was one person who said he could live with the SECU in its proposed spot, if no better places could be found in Granite Quarry. “If we can find some land that’s closer, let’s find it,” Anderson added.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.




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