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Facing strong opposition, Granite Quarry board rejects rezoning for leaf-and-limb site

GRANITE QUARRY — Town officials described it as a potential site for a “leaf and limb storage facility.”

Residents of the White Rock and Dunn’s Mountain Road community had other words for it.

“I don’t want a dump in my neighborhood,” Sam Miller said.

At a marathon public hearing Monday night, the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen heard from 30 different speakers, all opposed to a rezoning of 5 acres off Irby Lane that would allow the town to have a new place to take its leaves and limbs.

Their message — along with an 85-name petition — was heard loud and clear. Not long after 9:30 p.m., Alderman Kim Cress made the motion, with a second from Alderman John Linker, to deny the rezoning.

“I think we need to look elsewhere,” Linker said. ” … We need to build a consensus; we don’t need to be divisive.”

The standing-room-only audience responded to the board’s vote to reject the rezoning with applause, hoots and hollers of joy.

Mayor Bill Feather said he appreciated the details residents brought to the discussion and the passion and effort they put into their message. “I want you to know we do care about you,” Feather told the crowd.

Linker stressed that the town’s interest in the site off Irby Lane stemmed from the property owner’s coming to the town with an offer. The town did not target that particular property, Linker said.

“We have to put it elsewhere,” Feather reminded the crowd. “That effort still has to be made.”

Nathaniel McMahon had entered into an agreement to sell the town roughly 5 acres and grant an access easement to the site off Irby Lane.

According to Town Planner Steve Blount, the 5 acres would be used for leaf and limb storage, while McMahon planned to use the rest of his property for residential development.

But the sale of the property to the town was contingent on a minor administrative subdivision from two other parcels and the rezoning, which had been recommended by the Planning Board.

The property is currently zoned residential light. McMahon requested a rezoning to light industrial with a conditional district attached. The condition was that it be used only as a leaf and limb storage facility.

“If that’s not spot zoning, then I’m Santy Claus,” said former F&M Bank Chairman and CEO Paul Fisher, one of the impassioned speakers against the rezoning.

Chris Sharpe, first vice president of the Salisbury-Rowan Branch of the NAACP, said he attended Sunday’s community meeting at the Oglesby Center about the matter. He was representing NAACP President Gemale Black on Monday night.

“Do not do this,” Sharpe said. “The residents have spoken. We’re with them.”

A main theme heard repeatedly Monday night was that the proposed site is surrounded by residences — at least 21 in the Irby Lane, Summer Lane, Clement Street and Dunn’s Mountain Road area.

“See how all these families are wrapped around this?” Lovie Reid Sr. asked, sharing his homemade diagram of houses in the area. “… What we don’t want is a dump in the center of this paper.”

Reid said it was “almost mind-boggling to bring an idea like this to my house.”

Other speakers voiced concerns touching on safety, increased big-truck traffic, odor, pollution, litter, mosquitoes, varmints, outsiders and the like.

Fisher, noting his 57 years in banking, said many people built homes in that area of town when they were making only $50 a week at the quarry. They worked hard and built something to be proud of, Fisher said.

“Your home values will go down,” Fisher said if the rezoning went through. “It’ll happen; I promise you.”

Patricia Smyre said there are homes of significant value on Irby Lane and that overall the proposed use would be “extremely undesirable and offensive” in a residential area. She spoke at length detailing reasons why the rezoning and its conditional use didn’t work for this area.

Clarence Shuford told the town board, “This is something you don’t have to do.”

Rebecca Ellis said, “Take it into the woods where we don’t need to see it.”

Keith Moore, a resident of Dunn’s Mountain Road, told aldermen to do the right thing.

“You wouldn’t want this in your neighborhood, and we don’t want it in ours,” Moore said, adding he was “highly offended you would consider putting something like that in our community.”

Michelle Reid said she bought a house on Irby Lane 30 years ago because she loved the neighborhood, it was a good place to raise her children and she didn’t have to worry about traffic or strangers.

But the leaf and limb site — and all the things mentioned Monday that could come with it — would end up robbing her of the American dream, Reid said.

Richard Bello raised traffic concerns he already has about Dunn’s Mountain Road, which often is a cut-through from U.S. 52 to Bringle Ferry Road. On one side of the road, the speed limit is 35 mph; on the other, only 200 feet away, it’s 55 mph.

Bello called it chaotic. “It’s a dangerous situation there,” he added. Dunn’s Mountain Road would have been a street taken to reach the site.

Hercules Shannon said he retired from the military to his home on Irby Lane.

“We all don’t want to leave there unless you want to buy us out,” Shannon told the town board. “… I don’t think you want to pay that much money.”

Fisher predicted a leaf and limb storage site would end up attracting discarded mattresses, refrigerators, stoves, washers, televisions, air conditioners and asphalt shingles.

Lovie Reid Sr. said the town can call it leaves and limbs, “but anything thrown in the street is trash.”

The town has been using a spot on Rowan Street for what it has considered a temporary leaf and limb storage site. It’s on less than an acre. Limbs are kept inside a secured storage area. Mulch is outside the secured place.

During peak months, Blount said in his report, as many as six truckloads a day go to that site. Limbs are ground into mulch by an outside party once or twice a year, Blount’s report said.

Permitted uses in the light industrial zoning include “greenhouse or horticulture nursery (including outside storage),” with no restriction on the outdoor storage.

The conditional district was proposed as an add-on, so the land in question was restricted to the one use. As phrased, it said, “This property will be used as a leaf and limb storage, processing and mulch storage facility only.”

“Incidental storage of trucks will be allowed,” it continued. “Periodically, grinding equipment will be located on the property for the purpose of processing the leaves and limbs into mulch. Small storage and operations buildings will be allowed as needed.”

Before the crowd left Monday’s meeting, Feather said he wanted them to know that McMahon, the property owner, “didn’t do it to offend you.”

“I know this has upset him,” Feather said, referring to the strong opposition.

Feather, Cress and Linker were the town board members attending Monday’s meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers and Alderman Jim Costantino were absent.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.




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