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Zoning compromise will pave the way for SECU branch in Granite Quarry

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — Call it the November surprise.

A zoning compromise approved Monday night by the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen looks as though its satisfies all parties and paves the way for the State Employees Credit Union to build a branch office in Granite Quarry.

The surprise came when the board agreed to office-institutional zoning, not highway business, for the “Granite Place” property the SECU is interested in off North Salisbury Avenue (U.S. 52).

Going into Monday’s meeting, the town had advertised a public hearing to rezone all of Granite Place’s approximately 30 acres and 14 parcels to highway business (HB). In October, the Granite Quarry Planning Board also voted 3-2 to recommend HB for Granite Place.

The HB zoning, proposed by the town, had drawn significant opposition from nearby residents and property owners over recent months and looked to jeopardize the SECU’s branch’s locating here.

But in some behind-the-scenes discussions, initiated by Mayor Bill Feather and resident Ed Shell, the proposal for more restrictive office-institutional zoning was offered as a compromise Monday night.

Larry Vincent, a property agent for SECU, reiterated Monday night it was the SECU’s desire to bring a branch office to eastern Rowan County, and Granite Quarry was a good location for it.

If the SECU could find a solution supported by the community, it still wants to do that, Vincent said.

While the SECU plans to use only about 3 acres for the branch office, it  has a contract to purchase 20 acres. Vincent stressed the SECU has no plans for the surplus property at this time.

Feather said the whole zoning process for Granite Place had not been going in the wrong direction and the proposed HB zoning had offered some protection for the town, operating under confines of a long-ago court settlement, but he thought more input was needed.

So Feather contacted Shell, an outspoken critic of the HB zoning.

After lengthy discussions together, Feather said a larger group of the interested parties met and decided office-institutional zoning was acceptable for everybody concerned. It is more restrictive, Feather said, but still allows what the town would like to see in that area, such as the SECU branch.

The board received an opinion Monday night from interim attorney Anthony Fox that the board could change the zoning proposal, even though the public hearing had been advertised for something different.

In the end, Granite Place actually will have three different zoning classifications spread throughout its acreage: highway business, office-institutional and residential suburban.

Parcels that already were zoned HB will stay HB. An existing residential zoning on 3.63 acres will remain in place and provide a buffer next to existing neighborhoods. The new office-institutional zoning will be a good transition between the residential area and the existing HB, Feather said.

“It took a little bit of discussion and a little bit of time, but I think everybody’s on board,” Feather said.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Brinkley and aldermen Jim Costantino, Jim LaFevers and Arin Wilhelm all spoke in favor of the compromise adding office-institutional zoning to the final decision.

Brinkley, who was on the town board when the zoning of Granite Place was a court-settled issue in the mid 1990s, said he favored office-institutional zoning then.

Shell, a resident of the Countryside subdivision, gave credit to many of the parties who worked out the compromise and gave a special nod to Brinkley’s input. He said Brinkley doesn’t waste words.

“I like that, because I’m the same way,” Shell said.

Shell said when Feather reached out personally to have more discussions, he thought it was an outstanding idea. He said the property owners, prospective buyer, town officials and nearby residents all should be recognized and thanked for trying to find a solution that fits everyone’s needs.

It demonstrated that good things can come from people working together for the greater good, Shell said.

Overall, Shell said the compromise seemed to give protection to nearby residents, and the town possibly sees a desired addition to the tax base.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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