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Granite Quarry delays action on zoning change aimed at addressing gaming arcades

GRANITE QUARRY — A 90-day moratorium on electronic gaming arcades remains in place while the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen tries to sort out the zoning district where they should be allowed.

The aldermen delayed action Monday night on a Planning Board recommendation for a zoning change that would make electronic gaming operations an allowed use only in the heavy-industrial zoning classification.

The proposal also applied separation distances from residential areas and would limit hours of operation to 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The Planning Board met Sept. 9 — a meeting that came after approval of a second gaming arcade in town and after aldermen imposed the 90-day moratorium on more.

With the moratorium, aldermen also asked the Planning Board to consider revisions related to these businesses in the town’s uniform development ordinance.

At present, the town has the Granite Quarry Arcade and Star’s Arcade, both located relatively close to each other on opposite sides of North Salisbury Avenue (U.S. 52), within a couple of blocks of Town Hall.

Town Planner Steve Blount presented the Planning Board recommendation to the aldermen Monday night but noted his concerns that the recommended amendment may not hold up to a legal challenge.

The heavy-industrial zoning areas in town are along Balfour Quarry Road, but as the amendment was written with its separation requirements, no gaming operation could be located in the heavy-industrial areas.

Town Attorney Chip Short stressed to the Board of Aldermen that it cannot zone a legal establishment out of business, and the way the proposed amendment was written for the HI zoning district, it would not be defensible in court.

Blount suggested leaving electronic gaming operations as a conditional use in the central business and highway business zoning classifications but include larger separation requirements from residences and other gaming establishments.

During a public hearing on the proposed amendment, former Alderman Mike Brinkley encouraged the town board to go back to the way the language was in 2016, when the zoning ordinance was rewritten.

In a previous letter to the board, Brinkley said changes made on June 4, 2018, did not reflect the views of the board in 2016.

“I think anyone who studies the background of this original ordinance will understand what the board was trying to accomplish,” Brinkley said in that letter.

Richard Luhrs, a Planning Board member, described the gaming operations as annoyances and said the town had spent too much time and made too many mistakes in connection with them. He said it is time for Granite Quarry to stand up and say enough is enough.

“We’ve caved in. … It’s not time to cave in again,” Luhrs said.

Alderman Jim Costantino said he hates that a mistake was made by allowing the newest gaming operation. “It (the ordinance) got broken somehow, and it shouldn’t have been broken,” Costantino said.

In encouraging aldermen to use the moratorium period to find a solution, Alderman John Linker said “it makes no sense to say you can go here, but you can’t go here,” in terms of the way the proposed amendment is written.

He said the town should look into information mentioned by Brinkley and table a zoning amendment for now, which the aldermen did.

In another matter Monday, the aldermen revisited whether or not to hire landscape architect Lynn Raker of Asheville to provide a redesign plan for “town square,” the intersection of Salisbury Avenue (N.C. 52) and Bank Street.

In September, the board voted 3-2 against contracting with Raker, a former senior planner with the city of Salisbury. But the board voted unanimously Monday to hire her for the original $3,500 fee.

Brinkley spoke for the Downtown Revitalization Team and pushed for Raker’s hiring, saying she could bring together the ideas, numbers and baselines for the committee to work with.

“I think this is a good first step,” Brinkley said, toward getting the Board of Aldermen the hard facts it needs to put together a budget for the project.

LaFevers said he thought it would be good for an outsider to come in and give the town ideas for the intersection. Linker said, “We’ve never had the expertise to move forward,” and $3,500 would be a nominal fee for professional drawings.

Also Monday, the aldermen approved a lien of $246.25 on property at 220 Meadow Wood, whose owners are listed as Firooz and Victoria Dashab.

The property has had a total of eight code violations for tall grass and weeds going back to July 2012. Code violations at the property actually reach back as far as September 2008.

In 2011, a house on the property burned down, and a demolition began in October of that year. This year, starting in June, both courtesy and registered letters have gone to the owners citing problems with the overgrowth.

Because the owner did not resolve the problem, the town maintenance department ended up mowing the property, with a payment to the town of $246.25 due by Sept. 30. It had not been made as of Monday, leading to the attachment of the lien.

In other Granite Quarry business:

• Interim Town Manager Larry Smith reported that the new State Employees’ Credit Union branch under construction on North Salisbury Avenue is behind schedule. The construction hit a snag, Smith reported, when contractors found a 30-inch stormwater pipe was 90 percent clogged for a considerable distance.

The clog represented 20 years worth of accumulated debris.

• Smith reported four houses are now under construction in the new Village at Granite subdivision off Faith Road.

• Linker complimented the town staff on the quarterly financial report, which showed the town’s expenses at 18% for the first quarter, or 25% of the budget year.

• Mayor Bill Feather read proclamations for Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12, and October as being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness  Month.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.



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