Kannapolis City Council does not approve rezoning request for Davidson Highway property

Published 12:06 am Saturday, May 25, 2024

KANNAPOLIS — The Kannapolis City Council opposed a rezoning request for roughly 10 acres of land located on 9700 Davidson Highway at their May 20 meeting. 

It is zoned for general commercial-conditional and the surrounding property is mostly residential, but the amendment request asking to allow for a contractor’s yard was not sanctioned. The Kannapolis development ordinance states a contractor’s yard is “a use involving the outdoor storage of materials, supplies and equipment by building, heating/air conditioning, plumbing, electrical or other development contractors as the principal use on a lot. Accessory uses may include offices.” The property is currently being used as a contractor’s yard. 

The applicant, German Ronquillo, owner of Big Green Tree and Lawn Care Services, Inc., wanted to construct a 1,512 square-foot building on the property.

The property in question was rezoned in 2012 for another project called “Pappy’s Place” that would consist of offices, retail, distribution, mini-warehouse and self-storage space, but only if “several conditions” were met. Assistant Planning Director Elizabeth McCarty said this has not been built yet.

After the property was donated to the Davidson Lands Conservancy in 2013, they put a conservation easement in 2014 to only let commercial use occur within a two-acre section in the “center of the site” according to McCarty where the contractor’s yard would be located. The applicant bought the property in 2020 with the conservation easement still in place. 

On Feb. 20, the planning and zoning commission denied the initial rezoning request for the contractor’s yard because of the environmental impacts, a shortage of buildable space because of a conservation easement, and the effects to the buffer requirement due to upcoming widening of NC Highway 73. The applicant appealed their decision, bringing the matter to city council. 

Mathias Young of the law firm Johnston Allison Hord, spoke to council on behalf of the applicant and mentioned the history of the property and how they have complied with the easement over the years by planting vegetation and performing other requirements. Young explained how residents living close by had anxieties regarding stormwater runoff and sediment flowing into one of their ponds. Young said the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality inspected the property on May 3 and they found “no violations, no evidence of offsite sedimentation.”

City staff did recommend approval of the rezoning request having found it consistent with the comprehensive plan, but with 10 conditions, nine of which were presented to the planning and zoning commission when they blocked it in February. 

However, a number of Kannapolis residents appeared at the meeting to voice their disapproval for the rezoning request. 

Rob Harkey said the development has caused erosion to come into his pond and he believes the land has been “abused.”

Emily Jones described how the trees that have been planted along her property line as part of the easement have died. She also said how the smell of burning rubber and the noise from the bulldozers have had her contemplating moving. 

“I don’t mind the progress of the growing, every place is going to grow, but what’s over there, that shouldn’t be happening in the community where people are living with their kids,” Jones said.

During the discussions, Mayor Pro Tem Doug Wilson raised the point of not going against what the planning and zoning commission has already voted on. 

“I wonder what kind of message we send to our planning and zoning department, if they’re seeing the same thing we saw, or vice versa, and they said no and we said yes, then we’re getting back to where I’m asking the question, why do they need me?” Wilson said.

In the end, the city council did not adopt a resolution to zone. 

“I’m tickled they turned it down. I don’t understand why they would even consider putting this contractor yard in the middle of all the residential areas,” Harkey said.

Representatives of the applicant chose not to comment on the city council’s decision. City Attorney Walter Safrit said the applicant can still appeal the council’s decision within 30 days in a superior court.