Catawba Small Area Plan
Committee Meeting for March 11, 2003

Members present: J.V. Huffman Jr. (Chair), Dean McGinnis, Margaret Garrison, Rick Young, Lanny Hartsoe, Trent Cloninger, Christopher Niver, Jerry Setzer, Linda Moose, Charles Connor III and Todd Clark.

Members absent: Jeff Murray and Glenn Pattishall

Staff present: Mary George, Rich Hoffman and Connie Killian from the Catawba County Planning Department, Anthony Starr and John Kenny, consultants from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG).

Chair J.V. Huffman: Called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM in the Claremont City Hall. The minutes from the February 11, 2003 meeting were approved. Mr. Huffman continued with the photo exercise from last meeting by displaying his pictures, which included:

  1. An old historic home and barn. The emphasis was on preserving heritage and rehabilitation of old structures. Like.
  2. Small local businesses such as the Country Market, Wayside Furniture, and a tile business. Like.
  3. Church on Mt. Olive Church Road - The use of the old and new buildings on same site is a good use. The use of the older structure by other cultures as a meeting place adds to the diversity of the area. Like.
  4. Picture of landscaping in Florida. Like.
  5. Picture of a beach area in Florida with recreation access. Could be applicable since the Catawba SAP has lake frontage. Like.
  6. Mobile home park with a lot of debris. Dislike. Look at buffering/screening.
  7. Mobile home park behind the Country Market shows a neat and clean development with paved roads in good shape. As far as mobile home parks go - this is attractive.

Mr. Kenny: Discussed economic development issues and a new initiative called "Future Forward." This federally-funded process is looking at economic development opportunities within a 12-county region in Western N.C. He also explained the Foresight process. This is a strategic planning process made up of business leaders appointed by the Board of Commissioners (BOC), assembled to form goals for the County's economy and to report back to the BOC with specific implementation strategies. They were originally formed in 1985 and worked through two different planning processes. A new Foresight committee was appointed in 2001 and, after spending several months studying the data, chose to assign Task Forces to focus on education, jobs and the economy, the environment, and political leadership and the State.

Ms. George: Reviewed the long-range planning efforts of the County. She began with VisionQuest 2010, the County's current comprehensive plan. She explained that the Small Area Plans would replace this plan when staff provides recommendations for rezonings and work plan items. She reviewed the fold-out map which included the VisionQuest recommendations and future land use map.

She continued her review of plans, which included the Hwy. 321 Corridor Plan. She explained that the plan was one component the Board of Commissioners adopted to proactively address development in the Hwy. 321 corridor. They also adopted higher development standards for the corridor and proactively rezoned approximately 2000 acres. She said the Hwy. 321 development standards could be reviewed by the committee to be applied in a corridor within the Catawba SAP.

The Strategic Growth Plan (SGP) was then reviewed with the committee. Ms. George explained that the plan included a Current Conditions Report and a series of strategies to address growth in the County. One of strategies included in the plan was the development of Small Area Plans. Another strategy was how residential subdivision were being approved without taking into account available infrastructure such as public water and school capacity.

Mr. Hoffman: Discussed subdivision development, which is another way of discussing density and how many lots one can divide their property into. The County's Zoning Matrix was derived from the Strategic Growth Plan and intended to be a temporary measure put in place to address growth. Lot size is determined by standards that are met from a sliding scale. Four of the 19 criteria originally addressed in the SGP were used to create the standards in the Zoning Matrix. They are: 1) school capacity; 2) public water and sewer; 3) road capacity; and 4) open space/tree preservation strategies. Each lot is not necessarily required to be two-acres. The availability of the four factors will dictate the lot size. If public water or school capacity are not available, then the lot size would be two-acres.

Minor subdivisions consist of up to five lots off an existing State maintained road. Major subdivisions involve new road construction (to State standards) or when more than five lots are proposed and are reviewed in a two-stage process. The Subdivision Review Board (SRB) reviews the preliminary plan and the final plat is reviewed by planning staff.

Before the adoption of the SGP the typical lot size in the County was ½ acre (with a private well and septic system). There was also no limit as to the number of existing State road front lots one could plat. Since the adoption of the SGP, major subdivision development has followed the Zoning Matrix. School capacity is one of the criteria used to determine lot size and has had the most interest from the development community since it is the lack of school capacity that is a factor in the inability to plat lots less than 2-acres. The Zoning Matrix also requires public water in addition to school capacity to plat lots less than 2-acres.

There have been some amendments to ordinances since the adoption of the SGP, which have helped enable more subdivision activity. First, a change was adopted to allow the first five lots with new road construction to be exempt from the Zoning Matrix. Prior to this, the first lot with new road construction was required to adhere to the Zoning Matrix. The thought was that if the first five lots off an existing State-maintained road are exempt from the Zoning Matrix (minor subdivision), then why not allow the first five lots with new road construction (in a major subdivision) to be exempt from the Zoning Matrix. This can also help to avoid State road stripping by new subdivision lots.

Secondly, the Subdivision Ordinance was amended to allow for open-space subdivisions or cluster subdivisions. This allows the overall density on a parcel to adhere to 1 lot per 2-acres but each individual lots can be platted at less than 2-acres provided 30% of the site is dedicated for permanent open-space. Less infrastructure is required for the property while a certain portion of land is left undisturbed. There is a built-in density bonus for developers since the lot density is calculated prior to roads being platted, while a conventional subdivision would have to plat lots clear of the new road right-of-way.

A final handout was discussed which showed the slow down in new residential subdivision activity since September 1999. It was also mentioned that more developers recently have been platting cluster subdivisions.

Ms. Killian: Discussed current County zoning districts as well as the manufactured housing appearance criteria adopted in 1996. She explained that the County has four different districts; Residential, Commercial, Office-Institutional and Industrial. The manufactured housing appearance criteria created regulations for mobile homes. In summary, they would need to have lap-vinyl siding, shingled pitched roofs, removal of tow hitch, underskirting and homes would face the road front to ensure compatibility with neighboring homes.

She compared countywide building permits from 1990-present in the Catawba SAP. Stick-built homes have increased while mobile homes have decreased since the adoption of the appearance criteria. This is also the case countywide.

Ms. George: Explained how other zoning restrictions, such as the Watersupply Watershed Protection Act of 1999, could impact development in the Catawba SAP. Ms. George informed the committee that this Act was a State mandate to adopt minimum development standards within all State-designated watersheds. The Catawba SAP is impacted by the WS-IV critical and protected watersheds, which limits non-residential development to 36% built-upon area if curb and gutter is not installed. She said the committee could ask for an increase to this built-upon area based on changes made to the State's standards.

She briefly reviewed how the other Small Area Plans fit in with the Catawba SAP district. This will be reviewed further when the land use recommendations are discussed.

Ms. George mentioned other issues which may impact the Catawba SAP. This included designation of a Natural Heritage site in the Lyle Creek area, the relicensing efforts of Duke Power and an upcoming public hearing on the State's permanent buffer rules on the Catawba River.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 8, 2003 at 7:00 PM at Claremont City Hall.

The meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM.