Granite Quarry Board of Alderman keeps planning board as part of development process

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, August 10, 2022

GRANITE QUARRY — The Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen made a unanimous decision not to approve the amendment of the site plan approval process which would have eliminated the input of the town’s planning board during the review process of subdivision plats. 

The item outlined in the agenda was moved to the end of the meeting as the board members could not reach a conclusion before reading the options to improve the current developmental process of the municipality. Mayor Brittany Barnhardt requested that the item be discussed at August’s board of aldermen meeting due to the rapid influx of development and applications. 

The plans proposed by N-Focus Planning, the planning company providing services for Granite Quarry, was listed as followed:

• Option A: Comprehensive Land Use Plan only that would establish project orientation and scoping sessions, perform background research and analysis, receive public engagement and draft an implementation strategy. The total investment would be $39,800.

• Option B: Unified Development Ordinance that would establish project orientation and scoping sessions, perform background research and analysis, draft the UDO and finalize. The total investment would be $34,600. 

• Option C: Joint Project (CLUP and UDO) that totals a $65,500 investment.

Interim town planner Bill Bailey requested a review of the subdivision and site plan process to determine the best course of action to tackle development reviews. In his analysis, removing the planning board from the procedure of processing, filing and recording subdivision plats would reduce redundancy that causes added time and uncertainty for an applicant. The same conclusion was brought to the planning board on Aug. 1.

The North Carolina Legislature statute 160D-803 outlines that a governing board, on recommendation of a designated body or a designated planning board, or technical review committee of local government staff members, or other designated body or staff person, may provide final decisions on preliminary plats and final plats.

“If the final decision on a subdivision plat is quasi-judicial, the decision shall be assigned to the governing board, the planning board, the board of adjustment or other board appointed pursuant to this chapter, and the procedures set forth in G.S. 160D-406 shall apply,” the statute continues to read.

Essentially, the same review is being done twice, according to codified standards.

Barnhardt asked Bailey if it would be wise, according to N-Focus, to move forward on the change of amendment without having completed the land use map, updating the UDO or comprehensive land use plan, which Bailey directed to President of N-Focus Richard Flowe, who also attended Monday night’s meeting.

“To be consistent with where 160D is, absolutely you should adopt what they’ve recommended,” he said. “If you vote on plat or a site plan, you’re not actually doing a legislative decision. You’re actually wearing an administrative hat just like a zoning administrator or any else on staff.”

Richard Luhrs, chairman of the Granite Quarry planning board, took the podium during the public comment opened during the discussion of revising the subdivision and site plan process to explain why they unanimously rejected the proposal brought to them on Aug. 1.

“The planning board represents a voluntary, cost-free group who take time out of our busy lives in order to provide an extra set of qualified, concerned eyes, ears and questions regarding the development in our town,” he explained. “We’ve been very proactive in the past regarding this review process and in no way have we had the final decision or violated statutes.”

While a route for budgeting with N-Focus is still being determined, the planning board will continue to be a part of the development process as outlined in the town’s ordinance.

In other topics discussed:

• The Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to approve the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Act which establishes a more safe and convenient experience plan for those walking and biking in the Granite Quarry, primarily on Main Street and Salisbury Avenue.