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Granite Quarry talks growth — and how to make sure it happens the right way

GRANITE QUARRY — When the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen and the Planning Board met jointly Monday evening to discuss an update of the town’s comprehensive land use plan, the question naturally surfaced.

How big did they want Granite Quarry, now with a population of roughly 3,000 residents, to be 20 years from now?

As they asked that question, the consensus around the table seemed to be that growth from the Charlotte area is inevitable, probably coming sooner than later.

But the group also concluded that no matter what the growth is, the town needs to have solid policies in place to promote quality development.

“I think that’s where we need to focus,” Alderman John Linker said.

Alderman Kim Cress agreed.

“I think growth is good as long as it’s controlled … with good policy,” Cress said.

Those participating in Monday’s joint meeting included Planning Board members Sandra Shell, Richard Luhrs, David Trexler, Jerry Holshouser, Arin Wilhelm and Ronald Jacobs.

Town board members who joined them were Mayor Bill Feather, Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers, Cress and Linker.

The discussion took an hour, and overall the town board members liked what Town Planner Steve Blount and the Planning Board has put together as far as goals, policies and action items related to the land-use update.

Several of the issues raised Monday dealt more with the way the old plan, adopted in 2000, had been left pretty much as is, with the new paragraphs and sections added in a different type font.

Many of the participants asked why the old part couldn’t be corrected and updated where needed, with the new parts woven in.

“A lot of items still need to be cleaned up,” Feather said.

Luhrs questioned why the plan couldn’t be rewritten to eliminate the confusing format.

“Are there update police out there” who would object? Luhrs asked.

Blount reiterated what he has told both boards in the past. What they are considering is an update of the 2000 plan, not an expensive writing of a whole new plan. He added he is hesitant to throw out the old plan.

Jacobs agreed with Feather and Luhrs that he would like to see it cleaned up and more readable. Wilhelm said in today’s electronic age, it would be fairly easy to keep the old copy for reference and write a newer plan with the updates the Planning Board and Blount have made.

By the end of the meeting, Blount asked the two boards to allow him to take a crack at the kind of rewrite they were talking about, though he warned it could delay the ultimate adoption of an updated land use plan.

Blount stressed again the comprehensive land use plan is to guide the town’s decision-makers to correct and legally defensible decisions in land-use matters.

“The basic purpose of this plan is to help the Board of Aldermen, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Planning Board and the town’s planner make good decisions,” Blount wrote in a memo distributed before the meeting began.

“It is hoped that those good decisions will help accomplish the plan’s goals, but that is not the specific intent of the plan.”

As updated now, the plan includes nine goals, 28 policies and five action items.

The goals are broad statements the town would hope to accomplish over the next 20 years, and Blount noted they aren’t meant to be specific — that is, they don’t outline the objectives, strategies and tactics needed to attain a measurable result.

Rather, the goals mention general aims such as keeping Granite Quarry’s small-town feel, making it attractive to new residential and commercial growth, keeping the central business district vibrant, encouraging a wide range of housing types, using voluntary annexation and utility expansion to promote economic stability, creating walkable and connected neighborhoods, improving transportation corridors and being cognizant of the visual impact of new development.

“The document is meant to give you a big-picture view,” Blount said.

Cress said after three readings and asking himself and others what this plan is all about, he concluded it helps in creating a vision for the future.

“This is just a general statement that covers general things,” Cress said. “I think we’re on the right track.”

Shell, the Planning Board’s chairwoman, and her fellow members said the issue of code enforcement, which goes a long way in accomplishing and maintaining goals, is something that surfaces at almost every one of their meetings.

Linker, Cress and other town board members promised they are making a strong commitment to better code enforcement.

Cress said the board is trying to “go from reactive to proactive.”

The town plans to have a public work session on the land use plan, more revisions and a separate public hearing before final adoption.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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