Massive Kannapolis warehouse project draws environmental concerns
By Josh Bergeron
KANNAPOLIS — In less than two weeks, close to 1,000 jobs are on the line in Cabarrus County.
From the start, a major economic development project near a drinking water reservoir stoked significant concerns among local residents. Now, that proposal is headed for final consideration.
A project dubbed the Kannapolis Logistics Park requires a zoning approval from the city council in order to become a reality. It would create close to 1,000 jobs on 117 acres near the intersection of Kannapolis Parkway and Davidson Highway, according to developers. A development company called TPA Group has requested the proposed rezoning. If it gets city council approval, developers would construct a 1.21-million-square-foot warehouse adjacent to the Don T. Howell reservoir, which provides water to the Coddle Creek and Kannapolis water treatment plants.
City staff haven’t raised significant concerns about the development’s potential impacts on the environment. Developers have called the project “a real game-changer” for the region. Still, the usual concerns exist about a major development — traffic and noise. Significant environmental concerns also exist about the development.
For his part, Christopher Kouri, an attorney working on the project, notes that the project could have an”overall tremendously positive economic impact.”
“A state of the art facility of this magnitude would likely generate an overall capital investment of (more than) $100 million,” Kouri said in an emailed statement. “More importantly for the area, it would create about 1,000 new jobs that would pay a range of good wages and salaries and require a range of education and skill sets. It is very exciting and we look forward to continuing to work with the community to bring this project to fruition.”
City council approval is required because part of the 117-acre tract of land isn’t properly zoned for the 1.21-million-square-foot warehouse. Under the current zoning classifications, developers could build a smaller-than-desired warehouse. The proposed rezoning would consolidate a number of tracts into one classification called campus development conditional zoning.
In a statement provided to the Salisbury Post, the City of Kannapolis said it’s committed to balanced the need for employment opportunities for citizens while preserving land resources. The Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County declined to comment about the rezoning request.
The rezoning proposal was delayed on Monday at the request of the developers. At that time, city staff recommended approval of the rezoning request with a number of conditions. Some of the conditions are ones included after a community meeting with local residents.
Kouri didn’t respond to questions about the type of jobs, average wage or concerns from neighbors. However, the site’s plan has been modified in response to neighbors concerns to include: a 6-foot berm, dense evergreen vegetation, 8-foot security fence, a three-way stop at the intersection of a realigned Macedonia Church Road, a prohibition on hazardous material being stored on site and a few other items.
Still, there’s been significant opposition to the project. The Cabarrus Watershed Improvement Commission voted against the project. By a 4-2 count, the Kannapolis Planning and Zoning Commission also voted against the project.
Everett Helms lives adjacent to the rezoning site and is opposed to the logistics park. Helms says he just wants to ensure laws are properly followed.
“I know Kannapolis needs jobs, and we all want good-paying jobs for the people in this community, but there’s a right and a wrong way of going about it,” Helms said. “I’m not trying to be the start of a big problem out here, but I do want to see a fair application of the law.”
Helms’ family has lived on the same property for four generations. His family once received an award for conservation efforts from the Cabarrus County Soil and Water Conservation District. Helms said he has concerns about the scale of the facility and that it will operate continuously. Helms said he’s most worried about environmental issues.
A half-mile area around the reservoir puts restrictions on all property owners, including a prohibition on commercial uses. During a Kannapolis Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church Pastor John Leazer said he was prevented from paving a road to his church because of the restrictions. The church can only use 6 percent of its 11 acres because of reservoir-related restrictions. “Rules are changed” for certain businesses, Leazer said during the meeting.
Helms contrasts the church’s example with the warehouse’s proposed expansive of paved parking lots and construction that will occur to reroute roads around the property. Macedonia Church road, for example, will be relocated as part of the project.
Helms said he expects city staff to say some opponents of the logistics park live outside of the municipal limits. However, Helms said Kannapolis sits within Cabarrus County. Cabarrus laws apply in the city too, Helms said.
“The proposed rezoning and proposed development will deny adjoining property owners of reasonable expectation of good faith in application of current watershed laws,” Helms said.
Yadkin Riverkeeper Will Scott estimates the logistics park would contain “one of the biggest parking lots in North Carolina.” He’s concerned about the project because of its potential affect on Coddle Creek, which feeds into the Rocky River and later the Pee Dee River.
Scott says grading work done as part of the project will fundamentally alter the hydrology of the area.
“They would essentially be eliminating a chunk of land from the watershed,” Scott said. “We are not against jobs and we don’t oppose the project being in Kannapolis, but we just don’t think it’s the right site.”
Retention ponds would be built on site to trap water that would otherwise flow into the reservoir. It would be routed into Kannapolis’ municipal water and sewer system and later treated.
In an emailed statement, the City of Kannapolis said post-construction runoff will have to meet “stringent stormwater detention standards” contained in the city’s ordinances and standards developed by state regulators. The sediment and erosion control plan will be inspected by state regulators too, the City of Kannapolis said in its statement.
When the Kannapolis City Council meets on Dec. 12 to discuss the rezoning proposal, it’s likely they will hear from a dozen or more residents about the project. A number of people showed up at Monday’s meeting to speak about the rezoning but didn’t speak because consideration of the logistics park was delayed.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.
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