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My Turn: Here’s what we want, Mr. Mayor

By Karen Hester

Special to the Salisbury Post

Dear Mayor Hinnant and Members of The Kannpolis City Council,

I am writing this letter in response to the public hearing held Monday, Jan. 23.

Mr. Mayor, you stated at the end of the hearing that you do not know what we, the neighbors, want. As I am unaware of any forum that allows for dialog between the City Council and the constituents you represent, I hope to use this letter to explain my view.

First let me say, although I have not sat on a city council, I have served on a couple of boards and I do understand that it is impossible to please everyone. But we the residents of Kannapolis, through our votes, have put our utmost trust in your ability to do the hard thing. We trust you to understand the details, to consider all concerns and make the best decision.

We trust you not to reprimand us in public when we have no ability to answer the charges. We trust you to use your power and position for good and not to sway votes with last minute oratories. Contrary to your assumption, I value and welcome growth. I appreciate the opportunities, conveniences and variety that it brings. As our city benefits from growth, so do we!

Now to explain my opposition to the rezonings. The March 2016 rezoning brought many concerns for me and my neighbors. The concern most discussed is the allowance of High Density Compact Housing to border property (mine included) zoned Rural Estate. The previous zoning required transitional density to help maintain the character and value of our property. In the city’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), one of the considerations for rezoning is: “the rezoning is compatible with the adjacent neighborhood, especially residential neighborhood stability and character.” We did not feel the High Density Compact Housing that would border our property met those requirements. So we brought our appeal to you. Unfortunately for us, you agreed with the Planning & Zoning Commission and the new rezoning stood. However, earlier on Jan. 19, our case went before the Board of Adjustment to obtain the required Conditional Use Permit (CUP). The board found that “the proposed development was not in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood.” They agreed with the neighboring property owners and denied the CUP. Feeling that our concerns were valid, we sought counsel.

My husband and I are law-abiding citizens. We have never sought legal help for anything other than business contracts. It is not something that we wanted to do nor do we enjoy. But we felt our concerns deserved a tie-breaking decision.

As stated in the Kannapolis Planning & Zoning Commission’s minutes of Dec. 7, due to the lawsuit, the sellers want the zoning to go back to the original zoning. However, it did not. The Conditional Zoning (CZ) was removed. The UDO states that one of the reasons for creating CZ Districts is to “ensure compatibility of the use with the use and enjoyment of neighboring properties.” The decision to remove the CZ distinction in the new zoning removes all requirements to consider the neighbors. Now that a CUP will not be required, the neighbors will no longer be notified of plans that will impact our neighborhood, and the City Council has surrendered their oversight of all future development.

The new zoning only requires approval from the Planning & Zoning Office Staff. Since the Planning & Zoning Commission and Staff considered the High Density Compact Housing in character with the bordering Rural Estate property with the March 2016 rezoning, I do not feel they should have the final decision on future development of this property. The newly passed rezoning of Jan. 23 has taken away the citizens’ voice. This is why we must continue our course for an outside ruling.

I had hoped the zoning would have returned to the original 2008 zoning with assurance that future projects would require gradual density transition from the Rural Estate properties. This, I feel, would have been in keeping with the City Plan, helped maintain the character and value of the property belonging to current residents while allowing the desired and needed growth for our city. I am sorry it isn’t so.

Karen Hester lives in Kannapolis.

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