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City Council follows county commissioners, approves 2 economic development grants

SALISBURY — Economic development grants for two projects were approved by the Salisbury City Council on Tuesday night.

A day after similar grants were approved by the Rowan County commissioners, Project Arizona and Project Care were given full support by the council in hopes to bring new jobs and economic development to the community.

“We think both of these combined will be a tremendous boon for the city and the county,” said Scott Shelton of the Rowan County Economic Development Commission. “Over $250 million off of tax revenue. We really hope we win this. We’re going to try hard to win this.”

Major Pro Tem David Post said: “This is a slam dunk.”

Larry Ford said during the public hearing that the projects are needed for growth.

Preston Mitchell, the city’s development and code services manager and staff liaison for the Planning Board, presented a rewrite of “institutional campus” zoning as “community and institution.”

Council members and Mitchell talked at length about what this would mean for residents, especially since the zoning category will allow electronic message centers in residential areas.

Two people spoke during the hearing to raise concerns about having a neighbor with such a sign. Post said he had received several calls from people with similar concerns.

Mitchell said the message boards can’t flash and have limits on brightness and the message must stay up for at least 30 seconds. He said the Planning Board could discuss creating a buffer zone. He also said the board could take the rezoning in chunks based on the road type, adding this rewrite is a multistep process.

Several council members asked if a property could choose not to be considered for community and institution zoning and remain institutional campus.

“Will they be able to opt out?” Mitchell said. “The answer is yes, because one of the questions from the Planning Board was that it just wouldn’t be very Salisbury-like, very property-friendly to mandate that all these properties have to be included in this rezoning.”

Mayor Al Heggins asked Mitchell what prompted him and the Planning Board to make the text amendment request.

Mitchell said several schools, a rescue squad and churches had contacted him about wanting to add an electronic message center.

The rewrite was passed, and Mitchell said he took the comments of the council as a demand to present to the Planning Board.

The council also approved increasing from 100 feet to 500 feet the distance requirement for when rezoning request notifications are sent to property owners.

Council members heard a presentation from Chanaka Yatawara, executive director of the Salisbury Community Development Corp., about housing programs. Yatawara showed multiple projects the CDC has completed and talked about the impact of the improvements.

Councilan Brian Miller asked Yatawara what the council and community can do to enhance the efforts of the CDC.

“What would shock and awe look like?” Miller asked.

Yatawara spoke about the time it took to complete the projects because of waiting on funding.

“If we can get a million dollars, we can do something,” he said.

He also talked about the West End initiative, saying CDC is looking for more applicants and more contractors to complete exterior improvements.

Heggins commended Yatawara for his work with the CDC, saying the organization gives many families hope.

The City Council will have a special meeting at 2 p.m. today in council chambers to discuss changes to its procedural rules.



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