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Commissioners set date for public hearing on potential solar energy system rule changes

SALISBURY — A date has been set for a public hearing about changes to the county’s rules for solar energy systems.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday voted to hold a public hearing regarding the proposed changes at its second meeting of the month on March 15. The vote came after commissioners received a presentation from Planning Director Ed Muire on the possible new rules.

In conjunction with the Rowan County Planning Board, Muire and his staff have been working to bolster the county’s ordinances regarding solar energy systems after commissioners implemented a moratorium on any new or expanded systems larger than 6,000 square feet in October 2019.

The Planning Board gave its approval to changing the classification system for solar energy systems, establishing more stringent screening standards for large systems and enforcing stricter decommissioning requirements for systems no longer in use. Those changes were presented Monday to commissioners, who largely agreed but proposed a few minor tweaks.

On March 15, it will be the public’s turn to give its feedback on the proposed changes.

The commissioners could take action to officially adopt the new set of standards and change the county’s land use plan after the public hearing. They also could put off a vote until a later date. The current moratorium on solar energy system applications and expansion plans is set to expire on April 5.

In other meeting business:

Environmental Health Supervisor Adrian Pruett provided commissioners with a biweekly update on his department’s progress toward cutting down on the backlog of on-site soil and septic inspections. 

Due to the recent influx of rain, Pruett said that the wait time for inspections has increased from two weeks and one day to about four weeks and four days. 

“An inch-plus of rain every few days is really creating a lot of issues right now,” Pruett said.

Despite that increase, commissioners were pleased with the overall progress the department has made on the backlog that was once about 10 weeks. Commissioners told Pruett his biweekly, in-person reports would no longer be necessary. 

“I think we’ve probably turned the corner on this thing and I think a report to remind us that they’re still doing that same job is really all I need to make sure it’s getting done properly,” Commissioner Craig Pierce said.

Instead of giving in-person reports, Pruett will email the reports to commissioners and may report during meetings from time-to-time. Pruett said that the department is no longer relying on subcontractors to complete on-site soil and septic inspections and has also fully implemented the use of handheld GPS devices to speed up inspection times. 

During his report, Pruett mentioned that the Environmental Health Department has hired a food and lodging inspector who will start later this month and help cut down on the backlog of inspections.

• Commissioners approved a request from the Rowan Economic Development Commission to schedule a public hearing March 15 for an incentive request for “Project ACDC.” The company behind the project is an existing Rowan County employer that is considering an expansion. The company would invest roughly $28 million in new construction and equipment as part of the expansion that would also create approximately 75 new jobs over the next two years.

• The Board of Commissioners cleared the path for a Texas Roadhouse to be built at the Summit Shopping Center by approving a request from the development company to split one lot at the site into two. The two lots will be split into a 2.09-acre lot, on which the Texas Roadhouse will soon be built, and a 0.66-acre lot, which has no development currently planned. Commissioners also accepted a performance guarantee in the form of a surety bond for $109,038 in lieu of the developers installing required infrastructure prior to recording a final plat for the subdivision.

• A formerly unnamed road located at the 750 Block of Coley Road will now be called Pop Eller Drive after commissioners approved a majority road name petition. The namesake of the road was born in 1888 and lived in the area for all of his life. His great-grandson, Andy Eller, was at the meeting and said that they wanted the road renamed to honor him.

• Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds implored citizens using the Northeast Water Line in the Dukeville area to complete the water testing kits that were mailed to them. The county is hoping to gain close to 100% compliance in testing to determine how to best remedy the presence of lead in drinking water in some homes on the system. Edds said customers can contact the county for a new kit if he or she tossed an old one out. The county is offering customers a $72 credit on their monthly water bill if they complete the test.

• The Board of Commissioners made a proclamation declaring March for Meals Month in honor of the efforts made by Meals on Wheels Rowan County to provide nutrition to homebound seniors and disabled citizens.

• Commissioners approved a moratorium on the rental of the events center at West End Plaza as the Health Department continues to use the facility for its vaccine distribution.

• Commissioners approved a request from Carrie and Kabin Brown to construct a 1,600-square-foot building to operate a home décor retail sales business at 6931 W. NC 152. The Browns currently live on an adjacent parcel owned by Kabin’s mother, Cathy Brown Irvin, but plan on constructing a new home behind the business .

• Commissioners approved a request from Matt Erich to construct two 12,000-square-foot “personal storage” buildings at the 700 block of Performance Road. Erich plans to construct one building exclusively for storage and will construct a second building in the future. The request was approved with the caveat that any parking lots built on the property will be made of pervious material.

• Commissioners approved a request from Tammy Baucom for a conditional use permit to accommodate a 960-square-foot residential storage facility at her property in Pleasant Cove near High Rock Lake. The structure will be used  for storage of her boat and other personal property.

• The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of an aviation grant from the state for the creation of aviation STEM training at Mid Carolina Regional Airport.

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