Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan Committee Meeting for February 15, 2001

The meeting began at 6:35 PM in the Sherrills Ford Elementary School.

Members present: Ed Nolley, Charles Thomas, Paul Beatty, Ed Neill, Jerry Beatty, Doug Howard, David Stewart, Cathy Weaver, Glenn Hunsucker, Clyde Sigmon and Helen Sides.

Absent: Mark Sigmon, Bryan Harvey and Keith Gabriel

Staff Present: Mary George and Rich Hoffman from the Catawba County Planning Department and Mike Legg from Benchmark.

Others present: Jim Massey, Dick Hanson and Jacob Fertinney.

Mr. Nolley opened the meeting. The minutes from the January 18, 2001 meeting were discussed. Changes noted are:

1) Delete wording "this would prevent citizens from…." to not be specific as to how many feet of driveway width to be paved but to note that a minimum turn radius is needed.

The minutes were approved with the noted change.

Ms. Sides read a letter to the committee from Joyce Vukela-Mayer. The letter addressed many issues from the community input meeting that took place on August 31, 2000. Ms. Vukela-Mayer indicated that the results of the community input meeting, as she interpreted them, was to limit commercial and industrial development in the area. A bedroom community is the recommended result from the community. Also to limit high-density housing, to preserve green space/recreation, encourage small-scale retail/shopping and dining. Additionally, preservation of historic Terrell was a goal. If industrial areas are needed, then it should be considered Countywide.

Mr. Legg discussed the goals of this meeting. The committee is going to review the guiding principles and begin to make some decisions for long range planning in the area.

Mr. Stewart mentioned that some industrial/commercial businesses (water and sewer users) are needed to support the existing residences.

Mr. Nolley made a comment that it is difficult to derive the needed tax base from residences alone. Smart growth is the goal of the small area plans not no-growth. Leaders sometimes have to make tough decisions. Smart mixed-use growth will help community issues (i.e., commuting times).

Ms. George presented a map overlaying the committee's transportation recommendations which were developed at their last several meetings. The specific recommendations are as follows:

1) Major and minor thoroughfares and Molly's Backbone Road to have driveways with a minimum width and turn radius improvements.
2) Gateway improvements: greenway entrances on Hwy. 150 at Terrell and Greenwood Rd.; and Hwy. 16 at Buffalo Shoals Road and Hwy. 150.
3) Pedestrian connections to schools.
4) Additional pavement widths for pedestrians and bicycles when resurfacing projects are being done.
5) Intersection/road improvements at Sherrills Ford Rd and Island Point; Little Mtn. and Mt. Pleasant and Little Mtn. at bridge by Mathis Church Road.
6) Connector road from Island Point Road to Molly's Backbone Road.
7) Widening of Hwy. 150.

Ms. George displayed a new preliminary approved subdivision, Astoria, which shows a good example of cluster development. A portion of the overall parcel is devoted to permanent open space yet the overall density of the tract does not exceed 1 lot per 2 acres. She went on to explain some land conservation ideas. A map showing rural conservation areas was displayed. These areas were denoted by the Strategic Growth Plan that was accepted by the Catawba County Board of Commissioners in September 1999. The rural conservation areas were denoted around existing farmland tracts and large tracts of open land. She emphasized that other areas of conservation can be discussed by the committee with the idea to define what and how much development would be in a conservation area.

Mr. Sigmon expressed a desire to conserve Little Mountain from development. Ms. George mentioned that currently there is wording in the Zoning Ordinance for a Mountain Protection District, but the area is not mapped. She also cautioned the committee about suggesting an ordinance, which would prevent all development from taking place.

Mr. Neill said it is worth discussing but much of the mountain area is already subdivided.

Mr. Beatty brought up the idea of Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). Mr. Legg said that it takes legislative authority and cities need to be receptive as well (to establish receiving zones) for a workable TDR program.

Mr. Stewart asked about the County's involvement in enforcing deed restrictions. Mr. Legg and Ms. George explained that deed restrictions are private controls and the way for the County to get involved regulations is to adopt zoning standards.

A Mountain Protection District was brought up again. Ideas discussed were tree preservation, limiting road access, restricting development in areas where you have excessive slopes and allowing for agriculture and timbering. The committee began specifying areas for mountain protection/conservation areas. A basic area was drawn which included the mountain slopes.

Mr. Beatty expressed some concern for making density so restrictive that property owners would find it difficult to see an economic return. He suggested making TDR a recommendation of the committee.

Mr. Neill didn't object to less density above a certain mountain elevation as well as preservation of a certain percent of tree coverage in the mountain area.

Mr. Thomas asked about what cell tower restrictions are in place for the mountain areas. Ms. George mentioned co-location of users is in the County's Ordinance as well as a special use process for new towers.

Mr. Neill brought up other potential options other than TDR. For example, if in the future there were impact fees in place and a developer wanted to voluntarily limit the development, then maybe the impact fee could be waived. Other committee members brought up the idea of tax breaks for non-development of land. Also discussed was voluntary agriculture districts.

Ms. Weaver mentioned preserving open-space with cluster developments would help ensure wildlife habitat.

Even though TDR and increasing sales taxes are not in the County's control (these items being in the State's control), it still was noted as a committee recommendation. Another idea could be to recommend purchasing of development rights by the County to preserve conservation and open space areas.

Ms. George discussed a sliding scale for conservation density. A 30% minimum area for open space in new developments was discussed. Also a minimum lot size of ½ acre and possibly options for smaller lots. The committee agreed that within the designated rural conservation areas mandated cluster developments with 30% minimum open-space would be required (not to include road rights-of-way). The remaining area could be developed. A density bonus was agreed on by the committee since clustering would be mandatory. Additionally, lot sizes should be less than ½ acre (it was noted by the committee that ½ acre lots do not promote clustering). Areas outside of the rural conservation areas would be an option and incentives provided for clustering.

A discussion arose as to what land would be included in the calculation of open-space, i.e., creeks, roads, watershed, floodplain, etc. Also is there a minimum acreage that is needed to begin cluster requirements? i.e. exclude small parcels under a certain size or number of lots. The committee did not resolve this matter. Mr. Legg suggested that staff draft language and submit it to the committee for its review.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 15, 2001 at 6:30.

Ms. George informed the committee of a rezoning request for the property of Jackson-Poole to rezone property off of Hwy. 150 from C-1 to C-2. She indicated that she would like feedback and a recommendation from the committee regarding this request. The committee was split as to whether to recommend the rezoning of the property.

The meeting adjourned at 9:10 PM.