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Zoning still at heart of case for, against proposed SECU site in Granite Quarry

By Mark Wineka

mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — There were plenty of arguments made Monday against a rezoning of roughly 30 acres — property that includes a proposed spot for a State Employees Credit Union branch.

But in the end, a 3-2 majority of the Granite Quarry Planning Board voted to recommend a highway business (HB) district for all of “Granite Place,” the name given long ago to property that extends from the northeast corner of North Salisbury Avenue (U.S 52) and Dunn’s Mountain Church Road.

This particular case is described as an “administrative rezoning” — the town of Granite Quarry applied for it — and it has proven a bit controversial with some residents in that area, along with F&M officials who contend it’s not the right location.

Steve Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of Granite Quarry-based F&M Bank, said Monday the State Employees Credit Union is “a good competitor of ours.” Based on previous discussions, he noted, the SECU has been looking to locate a branch in this eastern part of Rowan County for at least 10 years.

A representative of the credit union has told the town constructing a branch would take about three years, Fisher added.

Given that time frame, Fisher suggested to planners the formation of a committee to study the zoning more completely.

“There is no rush here,” Fisher said. “Let’s take the time to do it right.”

Fisher predicted the SECU would build a branch east of Interstate 85 within five years.

“On behalf of F&M, I’m fine with that,” Fisher added. But he said the SECU needs only three acres of the Granite Place property, and he cited concerns about what could happen on the remaining 27 acres with HB zoning, which allows a multitude of uses.

Fisher also argued that the town had no design or development standards to which the other 27 acres of Granite Place would be subjected.

Even though the property is on Granite Quarry’s important front door coming from Salisbury, the town seems to be “hoping on a developer to be named later,” Fisher said.

“Hope is not a plan,” he added. “We’re talking about 27 acres that have no plan.”

Paul Fisher, chairman emeritus of F&M and Steve’s father, asked planners to recall that 22 years ago the town board rezoned to HB the property that became a small shopping center, anchored by a Winn-Dixie grocery store.

A Fred’s discount store later filled Winn-Dixie’s vacancy, and now Fred’s is long gone. Fisher said he argued 22 years ago that it was spot zoning. He opposed the HB zoning district then and predicted a business venture in that spot would not succeed.

“I’m at 100 percent correct,” Paul Fisher said. The town should not be trying to zone more area HB, when the HB zoning adjacent to Granite Place already has proven to be a failure, he added.

“Residential has been successful,” Paul Fisher told the planners. “We are a premier residential community.”

While the Winn-Dixie development struggled, Paul Fisher said 254 residences were added in the area between the bridge toward Salisbury and Granite Lake. He contended that Granite Quarry’s critical mass for land on which to grow commercially is compact and at the center of town.

Paul Fisher said the motor to drive Granite Quarry into the future will be residential development. With its revitalization plan, Paul Fisher said, Granite Quarry can become a quaint, exciting town, while also being the top residential community in Rowan County.

Ed Shell, a resident of the Countryside subdivision, also spoke against the HB zoning for all of Granite Place. And Salisbury attorney Jay Dees, who has been representing Paul Fisher and Shell in this matter, gave the Planning Board members some of his arguments in writing.

Shell reminded the Planning Board of action a couple of months ago in which it had recommended against a rezoning for the proposed SECU by itself. Nothing has changed, Shell said, except now the HB zoning is proposed for much more property.

“This is actually worse,” Shell said. “… This is very dangerous.”

Mary Ponds, former mayor of Granite Quarry, spoke for the HB zoning.

“Houses are great,” said Ponds, a retired educator who said she banks at both the SECU and F&M, “but people who live in houses need amenities. … We need this growth. …The credit union would be a very good thing for us to look at.”

The 30 acres in question encompass 14 parcels that have access to Granite Street and/or Granite Lane. Already on the property considered Granite Place are a Dollar General Store, an automotive service business, an accounting office and a single-family residence.

After zoning of this property came up in relation to the SECU proposal, town officials discovered the Granite Quarry zoning map did not reflect a 1996 court settlement in which the town agreed, among other things, to zone the property highway business.

The land’s original developer had sued the town over the zoning.

That court settlement was not mentioned Monday in the Planning Board’s deliberations.

Part of Granite Place’s 30 acres already are zoned highway business, while the remaining parcels are suburban residential. The proposed rezoning, which will now go to the Board of Aldermen Nov. 7, would place HB zoning on all of Granite Place.

Planning Board Chairman William Ketchie and members Jerry Austin and Buddy Poplin voted in favor of the HB zoning. Voting against it were Joy Fisher and Mary Grabowski.

Joy Fisher said she would like to see the matter go to a committee, given all the families and residences that could be affected in that area. On a personal note, she said regularly driving by the empty Winn-Dixie building on that end of town ‘is not pleasing.”

Ketchie said he would like to see Fisher’s comments on the case included with the Planning Board’s recommendation to aldermen.

A “statement of consistency” in favor of the HB zoning essentially says it adheres to the town’s comprehensive plan and does not constitute spot zoning.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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