Balls Creek Small Area Planning Committee Meeting – March 5, 2001

Members present: Eddie Barringer, Michael Isenhour, Robbie Bennett, Nancy Smyre, Nancy Jo Teague, Stanley Stewart, Robert Crouch, Vance Dalton (chairman), Mike Rutledge, Jerry McCombs and Janice Morrow.

Members absent: Paul Beatty (Planning Board liaison)

Staff present: Mike Dove, Mary George and Rich Hoffman from the Catawba County Planning Department, Mike Legg a consultant from Benchmark, Inc.


Other present: Commissioner Barbara Beatty and Ray Von Caldwell

The meeting of the Balls Creek Small Area Planning (BCSAP) Committee began at 7:12 in the Balls Creek Lions Club. Mr. Dalton opened the meeting and welcomed everyone present.  The minutes from the last meeting were approved.  Introductions were made of those present.

Mr. Dove referred to the agenda and listed the items to be covered at the meeting. 1) A brainstorming session of what the issues are in Balls Creek, 2) a photo exercise where members will take photographs of both pros and cons in the area as well as other areas, 3) a presentation on smart growth.

Mr. Dove began by asking members to brainstorm issues of what they like about Balls Creek.  The members responded with:

1)         Rich heritage in the community, i.e., the history of the area, camp meetings.

2)         Schools – the quality of them and strong leadership they provide to children.

3)         Abundance of rural landscape, i.e., open space/farm land.

4)         Balls Creek Optimist facility.

5)         Abundance of active churches and the historic preservation of them.

6)         The central location of Balls Creek, i.e. the access it provides to other areas.

7)         The strong family ties in the area.

8)         The natural beauty of the area, i.e., the mountains

9)         Strong community involvement, i.e., support for local civic organizations.

10)       Many large stable landowners.

11)       Walking trails at Murray’s Mill.

12)       Emergency services response time.

13)       The scenery at Joe Johnson Road (Murray’s Mill).

14)       The view at Drum’s Crossroads towards Charlotte.

15)       Scenic farms.

Mr. Stewart emphasized that all of the points noted above are positive and proper planning will help protect them.

Mr. Crouch liked the level of growth in Balls Creek and did not want to see the area grow too fast.

Mr. Dove then wanted the committee to brainstorm issues that were not positive for the area.  The members responded with:

1)         The traffic around Balls Creek School (in the morning and after school lets out).

2)         The traffic on Highway 16 and Highway 10.

3)         Impacts of the new Highway 16 (south of Earnhardt Chevrolet) on the community and the potential for commercial/industrial growth.

4)         Expansions of landfill and other locations of new landfills.  (It was noted that the existing landfill at Blackburn will be expanded, but there are no plans to locate another facility).

5)         Crime, residential break-ins, accessibility of area from highways.

6)         Housing types – the increased number of modular homes as a result of changing population demographics.

7)         The lack of affordable housing.

8)         Increased demand on schools and lack of forecasting when schools are planned.

9)         Highway 16 near Friendship Church – the land went from scenic (trees were preserved), to a poorly planned mobile home development.

10)       There are 3 auto junkyards in the area.

11)       Lack of playground areas for young children.

12)       Lack of safe bike paths.

13)       Unsafe speed limits (interfere with bike traffic).

14)       Lack of Y.M.C.A. in area

15)       Lack of higher end housing and other developments, i.e., a golf course community (could add some diversity of housing types).

16)       Concerns of consolidation of EMS and fire department – First Responders.

17)       Annexation issues regarding areas that Newton is considering.

18)       Dealing with proposed creek buffers and impacts on land. 

19)       EMS coverage in area – only one transport unit for three bases serving area.

It was noted that developments that take into account local concerns are generally positive.  Also it was noted that utilities generally dictate density.

Mr. Dove brought up future vision for area.  He wanted the committee to look 10-20 years in the future.  He asked the committee to envision what they want the area to look like down the road.  Growth and change are a reality, but people have the ability to guide growth.  Members mentioned the following points regarding a future vision of Balls Creek:

1)         The need for a post office near Highway 16 and 10 (or other major highway). 

2)         Increase Highway 16 to four lanes.

3)         CommScope in Sherrills Ford was noted as a good industrial neighbor.

4)         As furniture manufacturing decreases then the need to focus on high-tech industries will become a priority.  A high quality high-tech business park may be a good idea to pursue.

5)         Limit trucking industries.

6)         A good park to be enjoyed by all ages.

7)         More schools.

8)         Public water and sewer expansion.  Public water decreases insurance rates due to better fire protection.  Conversely it was noted to limit public water and sewer as a way to limit development.

9)         A goal is for Balls Creek to still be a rural community 15 years from now.

10)       An EMS base to be located in the area.

Ms. George handed out cameras and explained the photo exercise.  She noted that it is optional for the members to participate.  Members can document both positive and negative photo images of Balls Creek and/or other areas.  These photos can help in the planning process by emphasizing what to strive for and what to avoid.  After pictures are collected the members will do a presentation of the images.  The cameras will be collected at the next meeting so then presentations can take place at the May meeting.

Ms. George began a discussion on Smart Growth, which included a Power-Point visual presentation. Statistics from the presentation included that North Carolina is a viable economic State where jobs grew 15% in the State from 1991-2000 and by 6% in Catawba County.  Unemployment dropped by 3.5% statewide and by 2.2% in Catawba County.  The County has seen an increase of 214% in per capita income from 1980-1995.  The population growth in the Hickory Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) saw a 12% increase from 1990-1999.

The following impacts that growth has on communities was shown:

1)         Increase in traffic congestion

2)         Decrease in air/water quality

3)         Loss of farmland/ open space  

4)         Increasing risks from natural hazards

5)         Overburdened community infrastructure

6)         Challenges of maintaining affordability

The principles of smart growth were then presented:

1)         Build walkable communities

2)         Invest in existing neighborhoods

3)         Create transportation choices

4)         Preserve our rural heritage and rural economy

5)         Protect green spaces

6)         Ensure affordable living

7)         Promote regional cooperation

8)         Build disaster-resilient communities

The meeting adjourned at 8:55 PM.  The next meeting is scheduled for April 2, 2001 at 7:00 PM at the Lions Club.