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Land rezoning for Faith Road shopping center unanimously approved

SALISBURY — An 11,000-square-foot shopping center is going up soon behind the Rowan County Department of Social Services building.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Salisbury City Council unanimously voted to rezone 1.8 acres of woods at 517 Faith Road from residential to corridor mixed use, a designation that allows for commercial development.

Council member Brian Miller said the decision was “not an easy one by any stretch.”

That was, in part, because construction of the shopping center was found to be inconsistent with two of the city’s long-term plans — the 2020 plan and the Eastern Gateway Area Plan. Both plans prioritize preserving established residential communities.

Development services manager Preston Mitchell said that after discussing the development with city planning staff members, they still recommended rezoning because significant residential growth is unlikely there in the near future.

“The way that it’s being recommended to you is this might be inconsistent with our two plans, but it is reasonable and in the public interest based on its geographic location and removal of this vacant, dilapidated house,” Mitchell said.

The house on the property is a single-family structure that is boarded up.

Three people spoke during the public hearing portion of the Faith Road rezoning discussion.

Wayne Saleeby, who lives on Old Mocksville Road, said the council “never thinks about the people who live here.”

“I think you keep expanding the commercial zone,” Saleeby said. “I think it’s unfair that you make these promises to these people. ‘Come live here, raise your children, pay the taxes,’ whatever. And now you say, ‘To heck with it.’”

Project architect Bill Burgin also spoke during the public hearing. He said that when designing the plan, developers had done everything they could to reduce the impact on neighbors.

“I wish I could bring you an easy one. But the truth of the matter is we live in a city. And a city has people and properties that are close and side by side,” Burgin said. “So what we have tried to do is (err) in favor of the neighborhood, because I recognize that this council is neighborhood-friendly.”

Burgin said the developers plan to have the building as far away from neighbors — and as close to the back of the Department of Social Services building — as they could. They also plan to have buffers, including fences and trees, around the perimeter of the property.

Miller said that although there was not a lot of public feedback at Tuesday’s meeting, there had been a lot of public input at the Planning Board meeting at which the rezoning was discussed and at a neighborhood meeting that Burgin hosted.

“So this is not some situation where folks don’t know this is happening,” Miller said.

At the Sept. 12 Planning Board meeting, members voted 7-1 for the rezoning with several conditions attached.

Those conditions included planting evergreen trees as a buffer against three homes on Fairview Street, making sure that businesses in the shopping center close by 11 p.m. and having a unified design plan for store signs.

Mitchell also said there would be no vehicular access to the shopping center from Morrison Avenue, only from Faith Road.

The council voted unanimously to approve rezoning the lot and establishing a conditional district overlay so that the shopping center could be constructed.

The property is owned by Jose and Faustina Escobar.

Other items on the agenda included:

• The council did a second reading of the Mahaley Avenue rezoning for the new Fire Station No. 3.

Mitchell said that since the council approved the rezoning of the 100 block of Mahaley Avenue for a new fire station at its Sept. 20 meeting, the owner of the property adjacent to the proposed station requested a different zoning format.

The rezoning format that he requested does not affect the feasibility of having Fire Station 3 at that location.

The council voted 3-1 for the altered rezoning of the lot.

Council member David Post, who recused himself from previous votes because he owns property near the proposed site, abstained from voting. Abstaining is counted as a “yes” vote in an official tally.

Council member Kenny Hardin voted against the rezoning.

Once the council voted to rezone the property, it also voted to allow City Manager Lane Bailey and City Attorney Rivers Lawther to purchase the lot. That vote was 3-1 along the same lines, with Post abstaining.

• The council voted unanimously to issue a permit to demolish a building at 228 E. Kerr St.

The brick facade of the building will be preserved and used in a future structure, which will likely be an open-air building available for public use.

• The council approved $65,000 for a Knox Middle School STEM lab.

The STEM lab will focus primarily on coding, according to Salisbury-Rowan Schools Assistant Superintendent Julie Morrow.

She said that coding “really excites and motivates students at any reading level.”

The STEM lab is being paid for, in part, by money that had been used to pay the former co-principals at Knox.

Funding from a Golden LEAF Foundation grant is also being used for the program.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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