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County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

SALISBURY — Pending the outcome of a quasi-judicial hearing, more tree houses and hobbit-style homes could soon be built at the Cherry Treesort in China Grove.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday will hold a hearing regarding a request from Trent Cherry to amend his conditional use permit, which would allow him to add several more structures at his ecotourism vacation destination. Cherry started the development on 26 acres of land about six years ago and has found success renting his tree houses and hobbit houses to guests from across the country looking for a unique getaway.

Cherry initially requested a conditional use permit from the county in 2017 for two structures he’d already built and for permission to build five more. Cherry only completed three of the five allotted houses before his ability to obtain permits expired.

In the spring of 2020, Cherry requested permission to build 10 new structures and have a five-year window to obtain permits instead of the two he’d been given before, which is the default number. Commissioners only approved three of the desired 10 units at the time.

Cherry constructed the three allowed units, including a hobbit-style home that is completely underground besides its front-facing wall. Now, Cherry is seeking approval for eight additional structures.

The Planning Department staff has compiled a report about Cherry’s request, including information about how he plans to comply with certain standards such as screening and buffering.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting will take place on Monday at 6 p.m. in the J. Newton Cohen Sr. Room on the second floor of the Rowan County Administration Building. The meeting can be joined virtually at https://bit.ly/rowanboc0419 with password 041921 or by phone at: 602-753-0140, 720-928-9299 or 213-338-8477.

Also on the agenda:

• The Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing for request from NorthPoint Development to rezone a 44.85-acre parcel of land located at the 400 block of Webb Road from 85-ED-2 to commercial, business and industrial. The land is owned by Sharon Fesperman and Willis Myers. NorthPoint has plans to build a roughly 650,000-square-foot speculative industrial building on the property that will house a tenant that’s not yet been named. NorthPoint constructed the 609,301-square-foot Chewy distribution center in 2020. The rezoning request already passed the planning board unanimously.

• Commissioners will hear more details about a request from the VA’s Vet Center program for the program to locate a Community Access Point in Rowan County. The Vet Center Program operates independently from the Salisbury VA Medical Center, but it still provides care and counseling to veterans and their families. The closest current Vet Centers are located in Charlotte and Greensboro.

• The county will conduct a second public hearing regarding the fiscal year 2021-22 HOME Funding Action Plan. The anticipated budget for the program in Rowan County increased from $178,200 to $209,969 after a member jurisdiction opted not to participate this year, resulting in a funding increase to all jurisdictions. The HOME program’s monetary allocation will be used to provide housing rehabilitation assistance to five households within Rowan County limits, excluding the Salisbury and Kannapolis entitlement areas. Individuals or families whose incomes are 80% or less of the area median income are eligible for assistance. 

• Commissioners will consider awarding a contract to Wellpath to provide inmate healthcare services at the Rowan County Detention Center beginning July 1 at an estimated first year cost of $1.03 million. Wellpath is being recommended as the inmate healthcare provider over Southern Health Partners and Advanced Correctional Healthcare, whose bids came in at $1.037 million and $1.17 million respectively. Sheriff Kevin Auten recommended Wellpath over the two other companies for several reasons, including the number of total hours of coverage the company will provide, the fact that the company will only use LPN level nursing or above and the fact that the company will cover the cost of any integration needed for electronic medical records, among other factors.

• Commissioners will discuss and consider scheduling a date in early May to hold a budget work session.

• A representative from Charter Communications will provide an update regarding the company’s recent award of Federal Rural Digital Opportunity Funds for underserved area for broadband in Rowan County.

• Commissioners will consider awarding a contract for auditing services for fiscal years 2021, 2022 and 2023 to Martin Starnes and Associates. Martin Starnes and Associates, who has audited the county’s finances in the past, is recommended by the County’s Finance Department. The county received proposals from five certified public accounting firms, with Martin Starnes proposing the lowest annual fees of $61,000, $62,830 and $63,820 for fiscal years 2021-23.

• Commissioners will consider approving the acceptance of a $1,000 NC Tier II Grant from North Carolina Emergency. The funding will be used to create disaster preparedness guides for distribution to Rowan Countians.

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