Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning Committee Meeting March 16, 2000

The Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning Committee (SFSAPC) held its fourth meeting on Thursday, March 16, 2000 at 7:00 p.m. in the media center of Sherrills Ford Elementary School.

Members that were in attendance: Ed Nolley- Chairperson, Jerry Beatty, Ed Neill, Charles Thomas, Catherine Weaver, Helen Sides, Mark Sigmon, Doug Howard, and Paul Beatty. (Members not present were David Stewart, Brian Harvey, Glenn Hunsucker and Clyde Sigmon.)

Staff present: Roy Crawford and Richard Smith. Mike Legg of Benchmark, Inc. was present as our contracted consultant.

Also present were Glenn Barger, the Superintendent of Catawba County Schools, four citizens from the area, and two developers.

Staff distributed the latest schools figures as of March 1, 2000. Mr. Crawford reviewed the information on this spreadsheet with the Committee. He explained how we calculate these numbers based on the number of students that are produced by a “typical” building lot in Catawba County.

Mr. Crawford also went over a map that depicted the boundary lines for schools in the County. He explained that these district lines would more than likely change with the addition of new schools into the system. Mr. Crawford then introduced Mr. Barger to the Committee.

Mr. Barger began his discussion with the group by first explaining the process that the School Board used to prioritize schools in the system. He explained that the Board had a numbering category for each school, which indicates what level of condition the school building is in and how urgent the need for construction at the school may or may not be. He noted that there had been twelve school buildings replaced in the last ten years.

Mr. Barger told the group that originally the capacity of elementary schools was set at about five hundred students. He said that recently, however, the goals for schools and their capacities had been redrawn and elementary schools were now designed for a capacity of 750 students. He said that any more than this caused problems with the facilities, class sizes, and other areas involved with the daily operations of a school. He also explained that the Board plans to eventually incorporate preschool type operations into the elementary school operations.

He said that ideally, the Board would like to locate the middle schools as close to the high schools as possible. This would allow for shared facilities, which in turn allows the school system to save money. He said this is also beneficial to the students that may be more academically gifted because it allows them to take more advanced courses. He said that the target enrollment for high schools in the County is one thousand students. He explained to the group that this was not an easy goal to achieve. He said that in 1990, Catawba County had a growth rate of approximately fifty students a year. Presently, the system is experiencing a growth rate of about five hundred students a year.

Mr. Barger then introduced the School Board's five-year plan that covers the period of the year 2001 through 2006. He explained that one of the Board's goals is to minimize the number of mobile classrooms that are in the County. He said that last year there were forty-eight mobile classrooms in the County, but that this year there are only twenty-eight. He said that there were presently two schools contracted for construction that were funded by a previous bond referendum (1997). He said that one of these schools is St. Stephens Elementary School due to the condition of the school building there, and the other is a new elementary school in the Oxford area.

He passed out a handout that gave a breakdown of the 2001-2006 plan for schools. He emphasized to the group that none of the costs of building these proposed schools had been given any funding. He reiterated that a previous bond funded the two schools that were just contracted and that these two construction projects would use up the remainder of the funds from this bond.

Doug Howard asked about this plan's effect on the Sherrills Ford area. Mr. Barger explained to the group how this “Long Range Plan” would give some relief to the school capacities in the Sherrills Ford area. He told the group that as some of these new schools were completed, the school district lines would more than likely be redrawn. Mark Sigmon asked about St. Stephens Elementary and why it was a priority. Mr. Barger explained that the age of the facility dictated this school having priority over the other schools. Mr. Sigmon asked if Hickory City Schools would take part of this area in because of the location. Mr. Barger explained to him that this would not be the case.

Mark Sigmon mentioned that a developer was willing to buy Bryan Harvey's property and donate a portion of the land for schools, but was still not given the chance to develop this site. Mr. Crawford explained that this was still an option for this site to be developed with this land to be donated for schools. He emphasized however, and Mr. Barger concurred, that the property for schools is only a portion of the overall costs involved with building a new school.

The group briefly discussed impact fees as an option to help with funding for schools. Ed Neill brought up the discussion about a village concept. He gave Cline Plantation as an example of this concept. He said that he thought that this concept would work well in this planning area. Doug Howard asked Mr. Neill what the feeling was with the various contractors in the county regarding these impact fees. Mr. Neill said that the contractors thought that this was better than not being able to build or develop at all.

Mr. Neill stated that he supports an overall merger of the school systems in Catawba County. He asked Mr. Barger about the possibility of consolidating the school systems. Mr. Barger explained that this has frequently been discussed. He stated that one of the reasons that it has not been done is that an outside consulting firm was hired to see if this would be a feasible change to make. The firm came up with the conclusion that the benefit of having separate school systems slightly outweighs the benefits of merging them all into one system.

The group brought up the matter of students transferring to other school systems. Mr. Barger stated that this was not something that the school system discouraged or encouraged. He said that in the past the County school system has been fairly lenient regarding this matter.

Mark Sigmon referred back to what Mr. Neill brought up about a village concept. He said that he did not think that something like this would work in this area. He said that it was like bringing the city or town areas out to the rural areas. He also stated that he still found it difficult to tell people what they can and cannot do with their own land. Mr. Neill stated that the growth was going to come to this area, but that the village concept was just a way of reacting to this growth, while still allowing for the rural areas to remain somewhat rural.

Mike Legg brought up the question of industrial growth in this area in the form of industrial parks or complexes. Mr. Nolley asked Mr. Legg to poll the members with a questionnaire to get individual feedback on this issue and others. He said that he felt like this would allow the members to give more time to their feelings on these matters and to be more responsive.

Jerry Beatty stated that he thought that the option of selling development rights, similar to what had been discussed in the past year in the Huntersville area, was a good way to preserve rural and farm areas. Preservation of rural areas is a concern that the group wants to address in their overall plan.

Mr. Nolley thanked Mr. Barger for attending this meeting and for sharing information regarding schools. Mr. Nolley then asked the group if they would be willing to participate in a survey if Mr. Legg were to compile one and distribute it to the members. Everyone was very receptive to this idea. Mr. Neill stated that the group should also check in to open space allocations from the State.

The group decided that the next meeting date would be scheduled for Thursday, April 27, 2000 due to the regularly scheduled meeting date of April 20, 2000 falling right before Good Friday and the Easter Holiday.

Mr. Nolley adjourned the meeting.