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Rezoning delayed north of Catawba College

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — With two members absent, the Salisbury City Council on Tuesday decided to wait two weeks to decide on a rezoning request for property north of Catawba College.

The rezoning would change several residential tracts to a classification that would allow for future college expansion. The rezoning also includes designating roughly 100 acres as “open space preserve.” It no longer includes a controversial proposal to rezone tracts south of Catawba College to the institutional campus designation.

The City Council held a public hearing Tuesday about the rezoning and heard from three people. Mayor Karen Alexander suggested that the council wait until all five members are present before making a decision. Council members David Post and Brian Miller did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

If the council supports a decision by Salisbury Planning Board, the rezoning will be approved. In March, the Planning Board unanimously approved the request after Catawba agreed to remove the controversial part of the request.

On Tuesday, Development Services Manager Preston Mitchell spoke positively about the updated request and called it “a great effort.”

The rezoning would change 17 residential parcels along North Park Drive and Duke Circle to the institutional campus classification, which allows for educational uses and future expansion.

Speaking during Tuesday’s public-comment period, Catawba College Chief Operating Officer Nelson Murphy said some of the residential parcels would continue to be used as housing in the immediate future. Depending on growth, the residential parcels could be used as student housing or office space, Murphy said.

He said the college does not have any plans to tear down houses on the land north of campus.

Renee MacNutt, who lives south of Catawba College and spoke against the proposal, expressed concern about the fact that Catawba wants to rezone houses people are living in. The college owns some, but not all, of the parcels. If approved by the council, MacNutt said, the rezoning would leave Catawba College as the only viable buyer for homeowners.

“Who else is going to buy the home if they need to relocate for a job or whatever?” she asked. “So, there’s no competition, which is what every homeowner wants, right — lots of people looking at their home to get the best price?”

MacNutt said she did not intend to be against Catawba in making her comments.

“We love the college,” she said. “I feel a little intimidated because it’s presented as, you know, it’s so great for the college. So I feel like any comment I make against that makes me against the college. That’s not what I’m trying to do.”

A second woman who spoke during the public-comment period expressed concerns about future expansion south of campus. She said a precedent might be set by the rezoning and traffic and debris would increase around the campus.

After the public comments, Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell encouraged Catawba College to take care of issues such as debris around campus.

No one spoke against the open space preserve change, which is proposed because of the land’s proximity to Grant’s Creek.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the rezoning again on May 16. Alexander said the council will not hold another public hearing. The required public hearing was held Tuesday, she said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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