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Rowan commissioners discuss zoning ordinance for grass clippings in roadways

SALISBURY — Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce on Tuesday sought to address an area of growing concern for local motorcyclists: grass clippings in the roadway.

The discussion came as a late addition to a agenda for the commissioners meeting. Pierce sought to send the matter to the county Planning Board and staff in hopes that an ordinance change could potentially save lives.

Motorcyclists have likened driving over glass clippings to driving over ice, leading to loss of control and, potentially, serious accidents.

“The hope is to pass a zoning ordinance for this change so we can … have people wake up and understand what they’re doing is hazardous to our citizens and it needs to be stopped,” Pierce said.

He said he hopes the board will send a resolution to Raleigh supporting a statewide measure to prevent the hazard.

Currently, Pierce said, there is no reference in county ordinances that classify biodegradable clippings such as grass or limbs as hazards.

Multiple municipalities in the county have taken it upon themselves to update their own ordinances and address the problem, he said.

“Protecting our citizens is our main duty,” said Pierce. “This issue of grass clippings being broadcast onto highways has affected a lot of people, not just in our county but statewide.”

County Attorney Jay Dees said the first steps by the planning staff would be to research whether the county has the authority to regulate grass clippings in roadways. If so, then staff members will look at existing ordinances that address the issue and come back to the board with a proposed ordinance.

Commissioner Mike Caskey said it would be important to engage key stakeholders in the talks moving forward, including the District Attorney’s Office, State Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s Office.

“We have to make sure that they also know what we’re doing at the DA,” Caskey said. “We don’t want to put forth some ordinance that’s hard for them to prosecute.”

But Pierce said the ordinance change would preferably be more of a preventative measure, such as with the recent animal ordinance on housing domestic animals.

“We haven’t had to write any citations, but we’ve had the problem corrected,” he said. “… I’m not trying to tell people how to mow their yard. I just want them to be considerate of the two- and three-wheeled motorists we have out on our roadways.”

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:

• The board heard an update from Rowan County Register of Deeds John Bringle.

Bringle highlighted the county’s “Thank-a-Vet” discount program, which stores veterans’ DD-214 forms in exchange for an ID card that can be used locally for discounts. Storing the form makes it easier when veterans or their families apply for benefits.

Bringle said some 12,000 veterans in Rowan County have taken advantage of the program.

Bringle also talked about three new registers at the county office, an expanded online historical records search from 1753 to 1921, and the county’s new passport program.

Since May, the county has issued more than 200 passports at $35 each and provided 160 photos at $10 each. Bringle proposed waiving these two fees for county employees, an issue on that attorney Dees said he would report back to the board.

• The board approved budget amendments.

They account for new funds received through a community health grant and a Homeland Security grant; decreased projected revenues for the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling program per a state agreement; and to budget for continuing efforts such as the Tourism Development Authority’s Railwalk project.

• The board appointed eight people to seven local boards and commissions.

Appointments included commissioners Chairman Greg Edds to the Charlotte Regional Partnership Board; Tony Trexler and Jerry Hill to the East Gold Hill Volunteer Fire Department commissioners; Michelle Reid to the extraterritorial jurisdiction Planning Board for Granite Quarry; Gregory Lowe to the extraterritorial jurisdiction Zoning Board for Granite Quarry; George W. Benson for an at-large vacancy on the Rowan Transit System advisory committee; Timothy Malcom Proper to the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission; and Don Bringle to the Tourism Development Authority.

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