St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning Committee Meeting
February 13, 2002

Members present: Anne Barrier (Chair), Ira Cline, Larry Brittain, Jeff Kerley, Cliff Isaac, John Cline, Mack Stafford and Todd Miller.  

Members absent: Mike Williams and John Robinson.

Others present: Dan Hunsucker, James Scronce and Ronnie Scronce.

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

The meeting began at 7:00 PM in the Conover City Hall Council Chambers.

Ms. Barrier opened the meeting and welcomed all present.  The minutes from the January 9, 2002 meeting were approved.  

Mr. Tippett: Introduced Anthony Starr as a new staff member for WPCOG who will assist the committee.

Mr. Cline: Brought up some comments regarding voluntary agricultural districts and the impact of not allowing billboards in the district.  He felt that off-premise signage can be essential to farming sales.  

Ms. George: Commented that the committee could adopt provisions to allow off-site directional signs for agriculture uses that would not be classified as billboards.  The size of these signs could be limited.

Mr. Tippett: Mentioned that staff could research and bring back some ideas to address Mr. Cline’s suggestions.

Mr. Cline: Suggested that agricultural signs for perishable produce be exempt.

Mr. Starr: Asked the committee to revisit the draft that was handed out and add any comments necessary.

Ms. Barrier: Referred the committee to page 16 regarding stronger pollution regulations.  She asked if this was beyond the ability of the SAP.  The committee concurred that it was.  It was agreed to change the statement to keep pollution laws enforced by applicable agencies.  

Mr. Starr: Displayed a general land use map showing areas that the committee had thus far designated for specific uses.  The map showed areas for Office/Industrial (O/I) uses, community center, mixed-use, rural commercial nodes, commercial corridor, neighborhood commercial, existing and proposed schools, and approved sewer lines.  These are areas that have been discussed by the committee for certain uses but not a proactive rezoning initiative. 

Ms. George: Referred the committee to page 14 under cluster subdivisions.  Currently this is an option in the County yet there have been some discussions with other SAP’s as to whether cluster subdivisions should be mandatory in certain areas or remain an option.  The committee felt that it should be an option. 

Ms. Barrier/Ms. George: Mentioned that a cluster provided incentives to developers since there is less infrastructure costs and more lots can be created since density is based on overall acreage before the roads are platted.  With a traditional subdivision the roads are not considered as part of the zoning lot therefore the parcel would not yield a true 1 lot per 2 acre overall density.           

Ms. George: Staff will bring in diagrams showing traditional and cluster subdivision sketches.

Mr. Tippett: Most of the study area is bordered by the river.  A 500’ corridor back from the river (high water elevation mark) where there is a minimum lot size of 1 acre for new lots is what had been discussed.  

Ms. George: Passed out comments from Tom Carr, City of Hickory.  Highlights of his comments included the City’s current plan for density in the area where public water and sewer is located.  He offered to the Committee that they could look to these areas for higher density.   

Mr. Hunsucker: Asked about the area around Oxford Baptist Church and SpringsRoad.

Ms. George: Responded that this area is zoned industrial and the committee does not recommend changes in that area.  She also mentioned that any proposed expansion of existing uses by way of rezoning adjoining property will usually receive more favorable response for a rezoning request than would a new use.

Mr. James Scronce: Informed the committee that he runs a auto salvage business and with the price of scrap metal going down there is going to be a surplus of junk vehicles in the County needing to go somewhere.  

Mr. Cline: Informed the committee that there is a surplus of junk vehicles in residential areas and owners are unable to remove them due to the low price of scrap metal.  

Ms. George: Displayed a current draft land use map.  Issues discussed included: 
1)  435’ setback off river where minimum lot size would be 1-acre and minimum lot width would be 100’ with a R-1 zoning designation.  The committee felt that water quality, aesthetics (views from the water), retaining existing trend towards stick-built homes, and increasing tax values of properties all contribute to the minimum zoning configurations suggested.

2)  School capacity issues were brought up.  The committee wanted to make a strong statement in favor of school funding but did not want to restrict future subdivisions due to lack of school capacity.

Ms. George: Said that other SAP’s are recommending areas of higher and lower density that will help guide where new schools could be built in the future.  

Committee: Felt that development should be encouraged where there is existing public water and sewer lines and there is already established density.  They also felt that preserving open-space along Hwy. 16 could be accomplished by increasing the structure setbacks off the road for new subdivisions. 

Density will be a topic for the next meeting. 

Ms. George: Discussed voluntary agricultural districts.  She said that this is a voluntary program where farmers can offer to be included in an agricultural district which is established by an ordinance.  This allows the public to be aware that farming uses are established in that area.  This can help alleviate conflict with new residents and established farming activities.  She mentioned that there is a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 26th at the Government Center to discuss voluntary agricultural districts. 

The next meeting will be March 13, 2002.

The meeting adjourned at 9:05 PM.