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

The meeting began at 6:40 PM in the Sherrills Ford Elementary School library. 

Members present: Jerry Beatty, Ed Neill, Ed Nolley (Chairman), David Stewart, and Cathy Weaver.

Members absent: Paul Beatty, Keith Gabriel, Bryan Harvey, Doug Howard, Glenn Hunsucker, Helen Sides, Mark Sigmon, Charles Thomas and Clyde Sigmon.           


Staff Present: Mike Dove and Richard Smith from the Catawba County Planning and Community Development Department and Mike Legg from Benchmark.

Others present: Steve and Marsha Cole.

Mr. Nolley opened the meeting and welcomed Mrs. Marsha Cole, who owns property in this area, to the meeting (her husband Steve arrived later in the meeting).  The minutes from the February 15, 2001 meeting were discussed.  The following change was noted:

1)         Mr. Neill made the comment that it is difficult to derive the needed tax base from residential property, instead of Mr. Nolley.

The minutes were approved with the noted change.

The decision was made to discuss the conservation areas at a later meeting because of some concerns that some of the group members had with this proposed policy.  Mr. Neill made the comment that on the average, including school space and parks, open space makes up about 30% of a typical village project.  He said that this area should include school space and parks, otherwise this can end up being a substantial percentage of the overall site.

Mr. Beatty said that if it is possible to find out, he would like to know what part of Charlotte is considered open space.  He said that certain parts of the city are 50 to 75% open space or areas that have not just developed yet that are located in the city limits.  He said that if Charlotte is 30% open space, then he thought that this group should shoot for more than 30%.

Mr. Stewart asked Mr. Neill what part of Florida the project that he had been referring to is located and Mr. Neill told him that it is located in Orange County.  Mr. Stewart said that he is planning on going to Florida and would like to possibly visit this area.

Mr. Dove said that he had been doing research on open space guidelines and that he has a great deal of information on this topic.  He said that there was no reason for the group to get bogged down with this topic at this point since they were going to talk about it at a later meeting.  He said that there is a distinction between a PUD (Planned Unit Development) and a cluster subdivision that the group really has not discussed.  He said that this usually makes the determination of whether the open space is 10% or 40-50%, but the group can get into the details of that once the decisions are made on the other areas of discussion.

Mr. Legg said that at this meeting, the group needs to focus on specific areas such as economic development and commercial and industrial growth.  He said that if the group is comfortable with the guiding principles regarding these areas, then the next step would be to put these into policy form with specifics.  Mr. Legg reviewed the guiding principles with the group.  He told the group that the incomes and education levels of the residents in this area are higher than other areas within the county and outside the county.  He said that this means that there is a lot more disposable income in this area and over time the area will be right for commercial development.  He said that this may not happen now and maybe there is enough commercial property in Mooresville and Hickory that the residents of this area are being disbursed there, but eventually that will change.  Mr. Legg asked the group what kind of economic growth they want to see in this area and where they want to see it.  He said that the group had already indicated that they only wanted new clean, well-planned economic investments, which could be industrial, commercial, or anything.

The group recognized the need for more job opportunities and retail opportunities for this area. He said that the group had also indicated that they wanted to look at diversity in the land use patterns and to balance the land use between housing, shopping and employment and civic uses such as parks.  He said that the group had indicated that the majority of the land use should be designated as residential or residential and open space.  The citizens at the Community Input Meeting also indicated this.  Mr. Legg said that the wording was for the majority of the area to be residential, so now the group had to decide what to do with the minority or what was left.

He said that there seems to be a great deal of support for the village concept in this area.  He clarified that this is what is known as a planned, self-contained community.  He said that design standards are crucial with these types of developments.  He said that design seems to be a big concern for this area, which will require the group to be bold in specifying what kind of retail that they want to see here. 

Mr. Legg briefly discussed the transportation ideas that the group had identified, as well as the landscaping and buffering requirements for new development.  He then gave the group an overview of the guiding principles that they had decided on up to this point.  He asked the group if there was anything that they saw that they thought should be changed or eliminated in these principles.

Mrs. Weaver said that some of the issues that she gathered from the letter that Mrs. Sides brought forward to the group at the last meeting (from a citizen of this area) are those of balancing and how much the group is going to guide the type of development that is going to happen.  Mr. Legg said that the guiding principles will help the group to get to the point where they want to be more specific about what areas they want to see certain types of development.

Mr. Legg referred to page 5 of the Guiding Principles handout that detailed the results of the citizen survey and community input.  He said that there was strong support for smaller scale commercial development such as restaurants, barber shops, and drug stores or the “day-to-day” type businesses.  He said that the big thing that the group is going to have to decide is the Wal-Mart issue and whether or not they want this type of development in the Sherrills Ford community.  He said that this issue was evenly split as far as the number of citizens from this area that were for it and against it.  He said that this would probably be the group’s toughest decision and explained to them that they could regulate this through building size and some other things. 

He said that business parks and industrial and office development seemed to have less support for it than the smaller scale commercial development.  He said that there was heavy support for fairly restrictive sign regulations.  He told the group that now was the time to not let this get out of control, instead of waiting ten years or more when it would be too late. 

He said that the village concept had a great deal of support at the community meeting, as well as strict zoning regulations and limited commercial activity.  He said that the term “limited commercial activity” came out of the Community Input Meeting, but he believed that the intent was not to restrict against commercial development.  He said that he thought that what was meant by this was to limit the overall development in this area by restricting the size, kind, quality, appearance and location of it.  He said that it would be up to the committee to decide how to interpret this. 

Mr. Legg reviewed the maps with the group to help them to decide where they want to go with the plan. 

Mr. Nolley asked if the group should treat the lake front area differently from the rest of the area.  He said that he understood the biggest concern of the group that wanted to incorporate the Slanting Bridge area to be that of an environmental aspect.  Mr. Legg said that the group could eliminate these areas when they started talking about commercial and industrial growth.  Mr. Dove said that the group could treat any given area of this district differently as long as they could legitimately justify it.  He said that environmental concerns are truly valid concerns and reasons to justify treating a particular area differently. 

Mr. Stewart said that he noticed that we are only using a certain percentage of the commercial and industrial properties at this time.  He asked if there were already areas that are open to commercial that are lakefront that are not being utilized. 

Mr. Legg said that he thought that this number was countywide, but Mr. Dove said that calculations were done for vacant commercial properties in this area.  He said that all of the commercial that is along the lake is in use.  He explained that when the plan was established, they did not create new areas they recognized what was in existence.  He said that all of Highway 150 was identified as a transition corridor, which makes all of this area susceptible to being commercial.  He briefly mentioned the upcoming request to rezone a 20 acres tract located on Highway 150. 

Mr. Dove told the group that there were a couple of existing commercial uses that were not identified, like Kale’s Marina.  He said this particular site and a few others were not identified, but probably should have been. 

Mr. Dove asked the group where it would be reasonable to expand commercial uses in this area, like a grocery store.  The group identified the intersection of Highway 16 and Highway 150 for this use.  Mr. Dove asked the group if they were comfortable with the amount of commercial property at this intersection or if they thought there should be more. 

Mr. Stewart said that he agreed with treating the lake area differently as discussed earlier.  He said that he wondered what process a K-Mart or Wal-Mart used to identify possible locations.  He said that he personally thought that the existing locations in Mooresville, Lincolnton, and Hickory were sufficient.  He said that he did not think that the big boxes would want to target the lake dwellers. 

Mr. Legg reviewed numbers that were provided by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) that indicated what size of population was typical for certain levels of commercial development.  He said that what is being referred to here is what is called a community center, which would have about 80,000 to 120,000 square foot Wal-Mart with a couple small shops located there with it.  He said that ULI has said that you need about 10-30 acres for this type of development and a population within a reasonable driving distance would need to be between 40,000 to 150,000 people.  He said that this particular intersection probably does not have 40,000 or more people located nearby it.

He said that the group should think about the long term for this plan, because eventually this area would have enough of a population to support one of these community centers.  Mr. Neill said that Hickory by Choice put a limit on the square footage that would be allowed in certain areas.  He said that they identified a particular intersection and said that there could only be a total of “x” square footage for that area and that was all.

Mr. Neill said that the lack of sewer has created a false sense of development for this area.  He said that there would probably be twenty more restaurants in this area if sewer were available.  He said that he thinks that the Highway 16/150 intersection is the only place for a Wal-Mart.  He said that he likes the idea of putting a cap on the square footage allowance for certain areas. 

Mr. Legg reviewed the other ULI population figures that he had displayed on a flip chart.  He said that he thought that a “reasonable driving distance” was probably around a 20-minute drive.  Mr. Neill said that if a circle were drawn that covered a 20-minute drive from this intersection it would include a substantial number of people.

Mr. Dove said that what he thinks the group is saying is that they feel comfortable identifying this intersection as a community center level for shopping.  Mr. Nolley asked the group if any of them were not comfortable with this designation.  Mrs. Weaver said that the group may want to consider what type of effect encouraging a big box in this area would have on smaller retail establishments. 

Mr. Beatty reminded the group that Catawba County is only half of what is going along Highway 16.  He said that Lincoln County would also have an impact on what was allowed in this area.  Mr. Neill said that the group had to keep in mind that there is a rock quarry near this intersection and the new four-lane Highway 16 would be passing through nearby.  The group asked if anyone knew of any plans that Lincoln County may have for the future intersection of the new four-lane Highway 16 and Highway 150.  Mr. Dove said that staff could check on this and let the group know.

Mr. Nolley said that the group should also look at the “flip side” of this and that is if the group does not make it strict enough about what cannot be done in this area, then someone could come forward and decide to place a big box somewhere else that is less desirable or would have more of a negative impact on the area. 

Mr. Neill said that the County is going to run on sales taxes or property taxes.  He said that he did not want to see Catawba County miss an opportunity to collect sales taxes by letting people go to other communities outside the County to do business because of the lack of businesses here. 

Mr. Legg said that the key thing for the group to decide was what else they would like to see happen along Highway 150 between this already identified commercial center and the possible village concept area of Terrell and on to the Iredell County line.  He said that the group has made it clear that they do not want this area to look anything like the Mooresville area.  Mr. Legg said that the group could allow certain uses on Highway 150 like possibly office or institutional type uses, but they should develop a maximum distance off of this corridor that these type of uses could be done and make this a “wall” to prohibit further expansion and what could possibly a Mooresville-like look. 

The group then moved the discussion to where neighborhood centers should be located throughout the area.  Mr. Legg clarified that a neighborhood center is not likely going to have a grocery store.  He said that these areas typically have something slightly smaller than grocery stores. 

Architectural standards were briefly discussed, especially as a possibility for the Terrell area.  Mrs. Weaver expressed concerns over possible lighting problems (“light pollution”) that could arise from certain uses.  She said that she thought that more people are becoming aware of this as an issue after seeing what has happened in other areas around the lake. 

The group expressed concerns about what could happen with the property located on the northeast and southeast corners of the intersection of Highway 150 and Slanting Bridge Road, which is owned by Carolina Centers.

Mr. Stewart said that he had already thought of the area along Highway 150 as eventually being commercial except maybe for right around Terrell to protect the historic area.  Mr. Dove explained that this was a decision that the group would have to eventually make.  Mr. Beatty said that he thought that the majority of the people in this area do not want to see this happen.  He said that the survey results also indicate this.  Mr. Dove said that the group could implement this by saying that no new commercial development should be allowed along Highway 150 and that just the existing commercial uses would be recognized.

The group discussed the intersection of Highway 150 and Little Mountain Road and decided that they prefer to see this area designated as a residential area and nothing more. 

They discussed minimum lot sizes, buffering, and limited road access particularly as they relate to mixed-use areas.  Mr. Neill said that he thought County staff should be given the authority to negotiate certain terms as they relate to individual projects.

The group identified the recommended neighborhood centers for this area.  The intersection of Highway 16 and Buffalo Shoals Road was labeled as a neighborhood center.  The intersection of Long Island Road and Sherrills Ford Road near Commscope was identified as a neighborhood center.  The group also decided that Kale’s Marina should be designated as commercial.

Mr. Dove told the group that a lower neighborhood use designation could be applied to tracts that adjoin schools, the library, and the post office.  He said that this type of request should be required to be located near “x” number of homes in order to be given approval and could be handled through a rezoning process.  He said that the numbers would have to support the request.

Next the group discussed possible locations for industrial uses.  The area near Little Mountain Airport was identified as a potential industrial area.  Areas near the railroad were also discussed, but the group decided that with the railroad being located so close to existing residential areas that it may be best to keep it as residential, especially because of the potential for increased noise.  They said that it would probably be best if areas identified for industrial were near either Highway 150 or Highway 16. 

Mr. Dove asked the group about the densities that they prefer in the single-family residential areas.  The group indicated that they would prefer no more than two units per acre.  The idea of higher density near the lake was brought up, but the watershed in this area will not allow more than 1 unit per 20,000 square feet.

Transfer of development rights was brought up as a possible approach for this area depending on what happens in the legislature.  Mr. Beatty said that he had traveled through Indiana and Kentucky and there is no growth outside the cities in these states.  He said that Indiana has a 15-acre minimum lot size requirement.

The group indicated that they preferred for the higher density uses to be done along Highway 150.

The open space requirements for this area and whether or not the group wants to go above a 30% requirement will be discussed at the next meeting. 

Mr. Legg informed the group that this would be his last meeting.  He told them that he is leaving Benchmark to become the Assistant City Manager of Kannapolis.  He told the group that he had enjoyed working with them during this process.

Mr. Smith discussed rezoning requests that had been received by the Planning Department for properties lying within this planning area.  One was a request to rezone a tract from R-2 to E-2 off of Hwy. 16 in order to accommodate an existing rock quarry.  Another one involves a property owner that wants to rezone a portion of an existing commercial tract back to residential and the last one involves a request to rezone over 20 acres from residential to commercial.  The group agreed with the staff recommendation for approval of the first two mentioned and with the staff recommendation to deny the last one in order to not “strip” Highway 150 with commercial uses.

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 19, 2001 at 7:00 PM. 

The meeting adjourned at 9:15 PM.