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Planning Board votes to extend highway business zone farther down Statesville Boulevard

SALISBURY — In its first meeting of 2018, the Salisbury Planning Board voted unanimously to rezone a 16-acre lot from a general residential zone to a highway business zone.

“Any and all rezonings that you ever consider are always important. There’s no such thing as an unimportant rezoning,” said Preston Mitchell, the city’s planning and development manager.

But, he said, the Statesville Boulevard case represents a “pretty big jump” in terms of zoning classifications.

Duran Merrell requested that the property be rezoned to highway business because his church, Maranatha Bible Church, wants to be able to install an electronic message center to better advertise.

“… People said, ‘We can’t read the sign that’s out there,’” Merrell said of the church’s current, non-electronic sign. “… We can’t move it closer to the highway. We can’t do anything to it because it will not meet the specs of a residential (zoning.) So we’d like for it to be that we can put a nice sign up there and draw some attention.”

Maranatha Bible Church is on the 16-acre property at 2320 Statesville Blvd.

Mitchell said that because of the city’s recently updated sign ordinance, electronic signs are only allowed along nonresidential boulevards.

“So if this property was rezoned, it would be extending that non-esidential portion of Statesville Boulevard farther west and they would be eligible for the EMC sign to replace their existing ground sign,” Mitchell said.

The eastern boundary of the church property borders highway business zoning, Mitchell said. The church’s property is surrounded on two and a half sides by general residential zoning.

“If this highway business district was approved, there would be continuity with the existing highway business. We would not be creating an island of highway business. And that’s important,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said it is important for the board to consider the broader ramifications of rezoning the 16 acres from residential to commercial.

“Yes, that’s what the church wants to do with it. But if they get it rezoned, in 30 days the church could turn around and sell the property,” Mitchell said. “Now you’ve got a 16-acre tract of land that would be highway business zoning. Is it appropriate to rezone this land to highway business?”

In the end, Mitchell said the city planning staff decided to recommend that the Planning Board approve Merrell’s petition.

“As your planner, I would argue that it would not be detrimental to the neighborhoods that are off of Statesville Boulevard and would not be detrimental to immediate surrounding properties to allow this property to go ahead and convert to commercial,” Mitchell said. “… From the perspective of our policies and the ability for our city to grow and expand, as your planner I would not say that this would be a detrimental rezoning.”

Before the board took a vote, Chairman Josh Canup asked Merrell if there was anything else he’d like to say.

Merrell said the church has “no other plans” to move or to do anything else to the property as of now.

“There’s no plans for anything else except to reach out to the community and have a great worship center,” Merrell said.

The board unanimously agreed to recommend that the City Council approve Merrell’s request at the council’s next meeting.

The rezoning request is scheduled to be on the council’s Feb. 6 agenda.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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