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Commissioners to consider new ‘utility lot’ designation

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The addition of a new definition to the county’s ordinances has, perhaps, resulted in more passionate discussion than planning staff expected.

After two meetings of talk by the planning board, Rowan County commissioners on Monday will discuss whether to add the term “utility lot” to subdivision regulations. As it’s currently proposed, the term “utility lot” would include land containing pump or lift stations, cell phone towers, septic tank drain fields and other unmanned utility facilities.

Utility lots could not be used as parking, vehicles storage or “accommodation for residential or commercial structures.”

If commissioners approve the “utility lot” change, it would allow land not intended for residential or commercial use to be created and transferred. Commissioners will meet at 6 p.m. in the county’s administration building — 130 West Innes St.

Two months ago, staff in the Rowan County Planning Department first proposed the definition. However, planning board member Joe Coladarci raised questions about whether a phrase originally included in the “utility lot” definition could prove troublesome for property owners on High Rock Lake.

When expressing his concern, Coladarci posed a specific scenario: Alcoa, which is in the midst of selling its Yadkin River dams, would transfer control of slivers of land adjacent to the lake to the Carolina Thread Trail. The land, some of which sits between the lake and residential property, would become part of the Thread Trail and cut off families from access to the lake, Coladarci said.

The best example of Colaradrci’s hypothetical scenario would affect houses on Emerald Bay Drive. A slim strip of land measuring 10.4 acres and owned by Alcoa slides between houses on Emerald Bay Drive.

To address Coladarci’s concerns, the Rowan County Planning Board recommended the elimination of a phrase from the proposed “utility lot” that would have included “common areas, open spaces and other, similar environmental areas.”

In the planning board’s recommended statement of consistency, it highlighted the elimination of the phrase as respecting private property rights.

In other business from commissioners’ Monday agenda:

• Commissioners will review a letter from NC Department of Transportation that awards $2.74 million in state funds to a project at the Rowan County Airport.

The $2.47 million would allow the Rowan County Airport to complete a runway overlay project. It’s similar to road resurfacing projects but for an airport runway. The dated runway at the Rowan County Airport could be rehabilitated because of the state funds.

Rowan County would need to provide $304,700 of its own money to match the state funds.

The award of state funds expires in four years, according to the NC DOT letter. The letter was sent to Rowan County Manager Aaron Church on Nov. 8.

The runway overlay project is different than a proposed runway extension, which is projected to cost significantly more.

• Commissioners will hold a public hearing for a produce business located at 1710 Campbell Road in the Woodleaf area.

The produce business is requesting a change in a zoning designation that would allow an expansion of dry storage. The change would come as an alteration to the business’ current conditional use district.

• Commissioners will hold a hearing for treehouses in the China Grove area being rented out to customers.

Called Cherry Treesort, the buildings sit on a 26.1 acre tract of land on Flat Rock road. Currently, there are two treehouses, but planning staff says expansion plans may include up to five additional treehouse units.

The treehouses are used for temporary and overnight lodging.

On Monday, commissioners will consider whether to grant a conditional use permit.

• Commissioners will discuss a schedule for planning construction of a water and sewer system in southern Rowan County.

• Commissioners will set a date for a January retreat.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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