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New deal approved for economic development in Granite Quarry

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Speculative buildings are still planned for an industrial park on Heilig Road. The expected completion date, however, is now later than initially expected.

County commissioners on Monday approved an agreement that gives a Davidson County company options to purchase three pieces of county-owned property adjacent to Gildan Yarns and within the town limits of Granite Quarry. The company — Easter Creek Partners — would also build speculative buildings on the land. If the company meets certain benchmarks, Rowan County commissioners have agreed to reduce the purchase price to zero.

The estimated future investment by Easter Creek Partners is between $12 million and $15 million. Rowan Works Economic Development Director Robert Van Geons previously described the deal as one of the most significant economic development projects in decades for Rowan County.

Monday’s agreement is an updated version of one passed in February. The updated version adds time requirements for construction and financial incentives. It also allows Rowan County to market one of the three pieces of property while Easter Creek is working on the other two.

“We think this is going to be a much better deal for the county than we had in February,” County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said after Monday’s meeting. “It introduces some timelines that we didn’t have before and really opens the door to spec buildings in Rowan County for the first time. It’s something that was our top priority.”

The updated agreement stipulates that site development “shall begin” by Jan. 1, 2017. Construction must begin on or before July 1.

The agreement was approved after a closed session added to Monday’s agenda. It received unanimous approval from county commissioners. Previously, Commissioner Craig Pierce had questioned whether the deal was legal.

After Monday’s meeting, Pierce said he voted for the updated deal mostly because it gives the county the ability to market a third parcel of land while the other two are being developed. He said the original agreement “tied up all of the property that could be used for commercial development at once.”

Pierce listed a few other significant changes that swayed his opinion, including a more aggressive schedule for the developers to construct the speculative buildings.

The agreement also slightly changes benchmarks required to be met before Rowan County reduces the property purchase price to zero.

Pierce said the amount of time it has taken to update the agreement is proof that there were real questions about the legality of the original deal.

The Salisbury Post on Aug. 31 submitted a narrowly tailored public records request that sought emails sent between county commissioners about disagreements related to the speculative buildings deal. County Attorney Jay Dees has confirmed that the parameters used for the public records request contains information related to the deal. Dees has not yet delivered the requested information.

Describing details of Monday’s agreement, Edds said the first speculative building should be complete by Jan. 1, 2018. It will be 150,000 square feet, he said. Once that building is sold or leased to a company, another building should be under construction within six months, Edds said. The second building will be 100,000 square feet, he said.

The first lot is almost 36 acres. The second lot is 23 acres. The third lot is 15 acres and can be marketed by the county to a another entity that doesn’t plan to build a speculative building on the site.

Initially, county officials had estimated buildings could be finished by early 2017. Edds attributed the delay to weather-related issues and attorneys ironing out an updated agreement. He said the updated agreement has “been a tremendous group effort.” Every commissioner has been involved. Dees, County Manager Aaron Church and Triad Commercial representative Breck Dorton also deserve credit.

“We are grateful to Easter Creek for their willingness to invest in Rowan County, and we look forward to seeing this project bring much needed jobs to our community,” he said.

Today, a number elected officials and county employees are scheduled to tour a site built by Easter Creek Partners. It will be an example of what Rowan County should expect at the site next to Gildan Yarns, Edds said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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