Steve Blount starts as planner in Spencer, discusses outdated comprehensive plan

Published 12:01 am Friday, January 14, 2022

SPENCER – Steve Blount, a local magistrate and the town planner Granite Quarry until recently, has taken the reins of Spencer’s planning department.

Blount finished his duties in Granite Quarry in December. On Tuesday, he was introduced during the Spencer’s regular Board of Aldermen meeting.

“I appreciate you hiring a good manager that had the sense to hire a good planner,” Blount joked at the meeting.

He is a lifelong resident of Rowan County and has lived in Spencer for 31 years. He served 12 years as a county commissioner, which pushed him to get into planning and earn a master’s degree from UNC-Charlotte.

Blount spent five years working for Granite Quarry.

Blount is a vocal advocate of long range planning. At the meeting, he held up a copy of the town’s comprehensive land use plan and asked the board whether any have read it. He said the plans are often adopted, put on a shelf and forgotten.

He told the board the plan was adopted in 2008 and needs to be updated to comply with the state’s new General Statutes Chapter 160D. The comprehensive law intended to modernize state zoning practices requires an up-to-date plan.

Blount noted the 14 years since the plan’s adoption would make it difficult to convince a judge the plan is up to date, but the town appropriated money to revise the plan in the current fiscal budget.

“At the planning board level only one person had ever seen it and none of them had a current copy,” Blount said, adding the plan is badly outdated, needs a revision and that it will be a town project in the coming months.

However, Blount pointed out the town’s position is not unique.

“There’s a little place down the street called Charlotte. Theirs was adopted in 1975,” Blount said. “They don’t have a current one and they’re scrambling right now to get a new one in place.”

Blount talked to the board about the incoming growth from commercial growth from north and south of the town. Preparing for incoming growth is what comprehensive planning is about.

“It’s an exciting time to be a planner in this community,” Blount said.

In other items from the meeting:

• Sgt. Mike File, who’s leading the police department in an interim role, told the town two candidates are in a background check process for police officer positions.

He told the board both officers are already certified through basic law enforcement training and, while the background process for officers takes weeks, they could be able to start working much faster than a candidate that needs to attend basic training.

File said several other candidates have applied to go through BLET. He is also attempting to recruit from a BLET class that just started at Mitchell Community College.

• The board approved a lien of $900 on 411 South Iredell Avenue for nuisance abatement. The property was declared a nuisance due to waste and a connection to a local rat infestation.

The property owner was given the opportunity to clean up the property himself, but ran past the timeline given to him by the town, so town staff moved in to abate the issue themselves.

Legally, the board has to approve the lien to collect.

• The board approved applying for a grant from the Blanche and Julian Robertson foundation to restore 10 vintage signs and murals as well as create a new mural on the side of the new town hall.

The total cost of the repairs is estimated at $15,400.

• There will be two new subdivisions in Spencer, including four lots on Whitehead Avenue and six lots on Meadow Street.

Planner Kyle Harris told the board he has approved preliminary plats, but there are additional permitting and infrastructure requirements to come.

• The board amended its annual audit contract to extend the deadline to complete the town’s 2021 audit due to the audit manager for RH Accounting Services working with the town contracting COVID-19.

This is the second extension requested. Franzese said the town should not have any issues as long as it keeps the Local Government Commission up to date on the process.