Balls Creek Small Area Planning Committee Meeting -June 4, 2001

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

Members absent: Nancy Jo Teague, Stanley Stewart, Paul Beatty (Planning Board liaison), and Mike Rutledge.

Staff present: Mary George and Rich Hoffman from the Catawba County Planning Department, John Kenny and Susan Baumann, consultants from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.

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 May 7, 2001 meeting were approved.

Mr. Barringer: Began to describe the photographs he had taken of the community. The first description did not contain a photograph but was rather a suggestion that areas underneath transmission lines could be used for other than residential purposes, i.e., commercial or light industrial. Photographs: 1) A mobile home development on Highway 16 where the entrance was not buffered, 2) Another mobile home development (Country Valley) where the entrance is buffered with plants and shows a good example to strive for, 3) Mobile home development that show cluttered home arrangement and no buffering from the main road, 4) The Balls Creek Optimist Club shows a good example of a community facility, 5) The intersection of Bethany Church Road and Highway 16 is very cluttered with development which is close to the roads. Increasing setbacks could help alleviate this.

Ms. Morrow: Described her photographs as follows: 1) Churches having attractive landscapes, 2) Open-space/horse farm showing large green areas, 3) Christian Tours is a good example of landscaping and property entrance, 4) Planting trees after a property is logged is a good sight to strive for, 5) Conover Community Building has an attached senior center/activity building. A community building that is accessible to the whole community with recreation facilities (i.e., tennis, playground) is a good idea to strive for. She also expressed a need for a post office in the community.

Mr. Crouch: Described some pictures as follows: 1) A large commercial building that is vacant is not a positive sight, 2) An apartment building off of St. James Church Road which needs exterior rehabilitation, 3) Abandon cars and trucks visible at Witherspoons Cross Roads, 4) A well boring business with commercial trucks visible in a residential district, 5) A building off Highway 10 that is not complete, 6) The bridge at Boggs Road is too narrow and in need of repairs, 7) An automotive repair shop at St. James Church Road near Highway 16 is too close to the road, 8) An unfinished home on Highway 10 across from Jim's Junkyard, which is being occupied, 9) Crowded mobile home lots on Emmanuel Church Road, 10) Bandy's intersection needing improvement. Other pictures describing positive images included: 1) New businesses on the corner of Highway 10 and Boggs Road, 2) Balls Creek School is a positive and well maintained site, 3) Barringer Woods Subdivision is a good example of a residential development to strive for, 4) Landscaping at Mountain View Baptist Church, 5) St. James Vineyard is a good example of an attractive subdivision, 6) Farmington Hills shows a good example of a starter home subdivision. He also noted that open fields and subdivisions with open space was desirable.

Ms. George: Discussed preparation for the upcoming community input meeting. It will take place on July 23, 2001 from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM at the Balls Creek Elementary School Cafeteria. The key is to get the word out to the community about the meeting. Flyers were handed out to the committee members and suggestions were made for the members to display the flyers in public places such as churches, community buildings, shopping areas, gas stations, schools, and convenient stores. Catawba County will advertise in local papers, cable television, the County web site, and radio announcements. A facilitators guide was handed out. It described the ground rules for a community input meeting as well as showed the three questions that will be asked of the community:

  1. What do you like about the Balls creek area?
  2. What concerns do you have for the Balls Creek area?
  3. What is your future vision of the Balls Creek area?
After the questions are asked, staff will tally the results and a list of priority concerns will emerge.

Ms. George: Began a discussion on the County's Strategic Growth Plan, zoning regulations, land use, subdivision regulations, watershed regulations, and manufactured home appearance criteria. In 1974 Catawba County adopted zoning regulations countywide. Per State law, zoning has to be adopted in compliance with a comprehensive plan. Cities also have zoning laws and actually regulate areas outside of their municipal limits (called Extra Territorial Jurisdiction, ETJ). The County has three residential districts R-1, R-2, and R-3. R-2 zoning accounts for the majority of the County and it allows for single-wide mobile homes, double-wide mobile homes, modular, and stick-built homes. R-1 zoning does not allow for new mobile homes, it only allows for stick-built and modular homes (modular homes meet State building code). Most of the R-1 zoning in the district was established in 1989 for existing single-family stick-built subdivisions. R-3 zoning does not allow for single-wide mobile homes but allows for double-wides. R-3 acts as a buffer around the R-1 zoning.

Mr. Dalton: Asked where duplexes are allowed. Ms. George responded that they are allowed in R-2 and R-3 and have to have a minimum building lot. Anything above a duplex (i.e., triplex) is considered multi-family and needs public water, public sewer, and a minimum lot size and goes before the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners as a rezoning request.

Ms. George: The County has three commercial zoning districts C-1, C-2, and C-3. C-1 is Neighborhood Commercial and allows for uses such as corner groceries, beauty shops, etc. C-2 is Highway Business Commercial and allows for uses such as car sales, and restaurants. C-3 is a non-conforming commercial district and allows for existing uses to remain but the zone is not allowed to expand.

The County has two industrial districts E-1 and E-2. E-1 allows for light industrial and E-2 allows for heavy (more intensive) industrial uses. There is also an O-I (Office Institutional), which allows for uses such as medical offices.

Schools and churches are allowed in all residential districts as a use by right. Agriculture and farmland is exempt from county zoning laws (not cities) per State law.

Ms. George: Went on to discuss watershed protection regulations. The State has mandated certain density development in watershed areas (these are areas that drain to drinking water supplies). In Balls Creek there are three watersheds. 1) WS-II: protected - Maiden and Allen Creek watershed with regulations which require 1 lot per 1-acre, 2) WS-IV: protected regulations which require 1 lot per -acre, and 3) WS-II: critical regulations which require 1 lot per 2-acres. She explained lot coverage requirements for non-residential and multli-family development which is in accordance with the State's minimum requirement.

Ms. George: Explained the 5/70 bonus permit in WS-II & WS-III. 5 percent of the land area in the Maiden and Allen Creek watershed can be developed up to 70%. Exemptions exist for small developments where less than 1-acre of land is being cleared in a WS-IV watershed area.

Ms. George: Began discussing the manufactured home appearance criteria. Mobile home appearance criteria were developed for all new zoning permits issued after March 18, 1996. Basically, mobile homes are required to have underpinning, lap vinyl siding, and a pitched shingle roof. Grandfather provisions exist for existing lots, which were recorded prior to March 18, 1996, family subdivision lots, and mobile home parks. Catawba County has a model Ordinance that has held up in Federal Court.

Ms. George: Discussed Vision Quest 2010, Catawba County's most recent comprehensive plan. She handed out a summary of Vision Quest policy statements, which can be used as ideas or in whole for Balls Creek. Vision Quest is a generic plan for the County whereas the individual Small Area Plans are intended to be specific.

Ms. George: Discussed the County's Strategic Growth Plan. The Board of Commissions accepted this in September 1999. They started out by looking at growth trends in the County and looked at public services that the County provides. Sixteen strategies came out of the Plan to address growth issues. The Small Area Plans were one of the sixteen strategies. Subdivision development density was another strategy. Depending on what services are available to an area will dictate the minimum lot size in a major subdivision development. After considering nineteen criteria the Board of Commissions approved five criteria to help guide subdivision lot sizes. They include public water, public schools, and public sewer, open-space, and road capacity. Depending on what services are available will dictate whether or not a development can be less than a 2-acre per lot. This only pertains to major subdivisions and does not pertain to minor or family subdivisions. The Zoning Matrix, which specifies minimum lot sizes based upon services available, was adopted by the Board of Commissioners.

Ms. George: Another issue to come out of the Strategic Growth Plan was the Rural Conservation Areas. The Strategic Growth Plan identified five areas in the County. These are areas that 1) have scenic significance, 2) areas to protect watersheds, and 3) areas to preserve rural character. Balls Creek has a conservation area identified based on the watershed protection district. Since the Board of Commissioners did not adopt the complete Strategic Growth Plan but rather accepted it, the conservation areas are not mandatory but may be something the Committee may want to identify in its plan.

Ms. George: Explained cluster subdivision development and open-space preservation. Currently clustering of subdivision lots is allowed per the Zoning Ordinance in watershed areas. This allows a development to plat lots less than the required lot size as long as the overall density of 1 lot per 2-acres is maintained. The residual land would then be preserved as permanent open-space on the plat. A goal is to draft ordinances to allow clustering in the whole County and not be specific to the watershed areas only.

The next regular committee meeting is scheduled for August 6th at 7:00 PM at Fire Department #1, 1611 Buffalo Shoals Road. The agenda will include a review of the community meeting results, finalizing the transportation issues and beginning a discussion on land use issues.

The meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM.