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Catawba College modifies rezoning; Planning Board gives thumbs up

By Mark Wineka


SALISBURY — Catawba College on Tuesday modified a controversial zoning request, and the new version proved easier to digest for nearby residents and the Salisbury Planning Board.

The Planning Board voted 12-0 for the revision, proposed for the first time Tuesday by Nelson Murphy, chief financial officer for the college.

Catawba’s original proposal called for rezoning many general residential parcels north and south of the campus to an institutional campus designation.

But Tuesday, the college withdrew the request for 10 college-owned parcels on the south side.

Six of the parcels were located in the block bounded by Summit, Brenner, Lantz and Brawley avenues. Four other parcels were in an area bounded by Summit Avenue and King Street.

Again, they are no longer part of any rezoning.

It was from this residential neighborhood south of the campus where much of the opposition to Catawba’s rezoning plans had surfaced.

The Catawba College proposal still seeks to rezone 14 parcels north of campus from general residential to institutional campus, but seven other parcels have been eliminated from the original petition.

Properties on Hidden Hill Lane would not be rezoned, for example.

Of the remaining residential parcels proposed for rezoning along North Park Drive and Duke Circle, about 65 percent are owned or controlled by the college.

In addition, the college seeks a more restrictive “open space preserve” zoning for a dozen parcels north, northeast and west of the college that hug both sides of Grants Creek. All of this land is undeveloped, and some of the acreage backs up to the Eagle Heights and Crescent subdivisions.

No one has ever spoken against the open space preserve zoning.

Murphy’s proposal to eliminate the rezoning request for the south side of campus and tweak the proposal on the north side came as the Planning Board was ready to consider a committee recommendation.

Committee 2 of the board held an almost three-hour meeting March 15 in which it received input from residents and college officials. In the end, the committee recommended that a conditional district (CD) overlay be placed on the properties proposed for institutional campus zoning.

Although the zoning could change to institutional campus under this scenario, a CD overlay requires spelling out specific uses and development standards for affected properties.

Also, a request for a CD overlay must come from the property owner — in this case, Catawba College and a few others.

“We can’t make somebody do a CD,” Planning Board Chairman Bill Burgin said.

Senior Planner Preston Mitchell added, “There’s going to be an awful lot of work ahead of us if you agree to this.”

Before the full Planning Board voted on the recommendation for a rezoning with a CD, Murphy offered his modified proposal. The board eventually voted down the committee recommendation so that Catawba’s new proposal could be discussed and voted on.

Burgin also held a courtesy hearing on the new proposal for residents in the audience.

Dianne Scott of Hidden Hill Lane spoke in support of the modification.

“We accept these changes and appreciate them,” she said.

Otherwise, several Lantz Avenue residents were heard. Sam Post said he wasn’t sure about speaking for or against the new proposal because he had just heard it.

But both Post and Gwen Matthews cited how Duke University in Durham and Davidson College in Mecklenburg County had bought up houses in residential neighborhoods close to their campuses and resold them with protective covenants.

The houses went to single-family owners as a way of protecting both the neighborhood and the colleges.

Matthews said Davidson College makes it a point not to anger its neighbors. Post called on the college to have better communication with its neighbors in the future.

Addressing the college, Matthews added, “We’re kind of missing the mark. We are there, and we like being next to you. We just want our voices to be heard.”

Marshall Moore, also of Lantz Avenue, said he agrees with the new proposal.

Renee MacNutt of Lantz Avenue asked whether the property owners affected by the rezoning on the north side of the campus will be notified by the city.

Mitchell said a certified letter will go to them before the City Council meeting in which the rezoning case is heard. The council will hold a public hearing and act on this zoning case at 5 p.m. April 18.

Murphy, the Catawba College official, said four people own six of the parcels on the north side not owned or controlled by the college. He successfully contacted three owners of four properties and met no opposition to the institutional campus zoning, Murphy said.

Mitchell said the city staff is in favor of the amended zoning petition. It protects the neighborhood to the south and also could be seen as supporting higher education, he noted.

Planning Board member Cress Goodnight expressed appreciation for Catawba College’s going with the modification and said it seems like “a peace flower” to the nearby residents.

Burgin thanked the residents for their involvement in this case and Catawba College for its efforts “to make it fit better.”

In other business, the Planning Board welcomed new member Dennis Rogers and thanked Patricia Ricks for her long service. Tuesday represented Ricks’ last meeting after eight-plus years on the board.

“Your input has been invaluable,” Mitchell told her.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.







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