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County works to finalize new campground rules

Months after concerns arose near High Rock Lake, Rowan County commissioners are inching closer to passing new regulations for and lifting a moratorium on new campgrounds.

The new regulations are wide-ranging, covering everything from sewage disposal to street addresses in campgrounds. Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds says the new rules are intended to bring up to date county rules that have not been revised in 20 years.

For example, the rules require “cabin, campgrounds and recreational vehicle (RV) parks” to include a a method for providing adequate on-site sewage disposal as well as an on-site potable water supply that’s permitted by the Health Department or connection to a municipal system.

Most of the regulations would not apply to existing developments, most of which are located near High Rock Lake, according to a list provided by the Rowan County Planning Department. However, all campgrounds and RV parks would need to ensure their roads have names and individual sites have addresses, said Planning Director Ed Muire.

After receiving the Rowan County Planning Board’s OK, the regulations returned to Rowan County commissioners last week. Commissioners unanimously approved the new rules, but they will need to vote a second time because Commissioner Judy Klusman was not present at last week’s meeting.

None of the four commissioners present raised questions about the proposed rules, but Mike Jones, Salisbury Elks Lodge board chairman, said he didn’t understand the need for the changes. Jones also said the Salisbury Elks, which has a 24-acre campground, didn’t receive much advanced notification the changes were happening.

Jones used Dan Nicholas Park to question why the rules were needed.

“The largest (campground) is actually Dan Nicholas, which the county owns. And, quite frankly, you have four sites there that do not have water or sewer,” Jones said. “So, if this is such a big deal, then why hasn’t Dan Nicholas already taken care of these issues if they are issues?”

Asked this week, Muire said he could only recall two zoning requests to build new campgrounds in 20 years.

The most recent concerns, Muire said, related to the campground requirements first arose in spring 2018, when Barry Childers sought to rezone a parcel of land on Providence Church Road from residential to commercial, business, industrial. Local residents questioned whether Childers intended to build a campground on the site. Their concerns ranged from increased litter to added boat and jet ski traffic. Childers, however, said he intended to start a pier- and dock-building business.

During a commissioners meeting in June 2018, Edds said he had contacted the Planning Department to ask for it to study campgrounds and, eventually, suggest rule changes for the developments. Commissioners enacted a moratorium on new campgrounds and RV parks in August as they worked through the new rules.

When commissioners meet again, they could lift the moratorium and pass the new rules even if a commissioner is absent. On the second reading of a text amendment to the county’s zoning rules, all that’s needed is a simple majority.

Long term, Edds said the “market” is going to deal with the issue of campground standards, including because land near High Rock Lake is going to be more valuable.

Contact editor Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4248.

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