St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning Committee Meeting
February 21 , 2001 

The meeting began at 7:05 PM in the Conover City Hall Building.

Members present: Anne Barrier (Chairperson), Ira Cline, Todd Miller, Cliff Issac, Larry Brittain, John Robinson, Mike Williams, and Jeff Kerley.

Members absent: John Cline.

Member resigned: Florence Little, due to her moving out of the County.

Staff Present: Mike Dove, Mary George and Rich Hoffman from the Catawba County Planning Department, Susan Baumann, consultant from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG).

Others present: Randy Williams and Anthony Starr from the City of Conover, and Keith Stahley from the City of Hickory.

Ms. Barrier opened the meeting and welcomed all present. The minutes from the last meeting were approved.

Ms. George began a discussion on Smart Growth, which included a Power-Point visual presentation. Statistics from the presentation included that North Carolina is a viable economic State where jobs grew 15% in the State from 1991-2000 and by 6% in Catawba County. Unemployment dropped by 3.5% statewide and by 2.2% in Catawba County. The County has seen an increase of 214% in per capita income from 1980-1995. The population growth in the Hickory Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) saw a 12% increase from 1990-1999.

The following impacts that growth has on communities was shown:

1)         Increase in traffic congestion

2)         Decrease in air/water quality

3)         Loss of farmland/ open space  

4)         Increasing risks from natural hazards

5)         Overburdened community infrastructure

6)         Challenges of maintaining affordability

The principles of smart growth were then presented:

1)         Build walkable communities

2)         Invest in existing neighborhoods

3)         Create transportation choices

4)         Preserve our rural heritage and rural economy

5)         Protect green spaces

6)         Ensure affordable living

7)         Promote regional cooperation

8)         Build disaster-resilient communities

Ms. George handed out a short survey for the committee members to fill out.  A discussion arose about current fiscal constraints and Mr. Dove emphasized that it is still important to plan ahead because the economy will change in the future.

Mr. Stahley then gave a presentation on Hickory by Choice (HBC), the City’s future land use and transportation plan.  This process began 3-4 years ago.  It started as a reaction to the 1996 Crosstown Task Force.  Since the adoption of HBC, the land development code is now being created which will be the means to implement the plan.  As part of the changes it is recommended to have site-plan reviews done by the Planning Board (and not by City Council).  A future land use map from the HBC plan was presented.  The map showed a focus of neighborhood cores at highway interchanges to include multi-family and small scale commercial development.  A primary neighborhood ring surrounds the neighborhood cores where a variety of single-family housing opportunities are to be located.  In the St. Stephens/Oxford area, a community commercial core with primary residential is shown at the intersection of Springs Road and Kool Park Road.  The area around Catawba Springs is shown as a secondary residential area with 4 dwelling units/acre.  The remaining area is shown as rural residential where the average density is lower.  The committee was informed that the HPC Plan can be used as a general guideline and that the committee’s residential densities and commercial area may vary.

A discussion arose as to the goal of the committee.  Staff is available to aid the committee in order for them to arrive at a plan for presentation.  The plan is created by the committee and will represent the views of the community and will be drafted for presentation to both the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners.

The members brought up a wide range of issues involving the role of regulation versus growth, taxes, farmland issues, pollution, transportation, ways to manage growth, increased population in the area (especially during work hours) and impacts of Hickory on this area.

Staff told the committee that these and other issues are the purpose of the committee and will be discussed at future meetings.

The committee agreed to hold their community input meeting on May 7, 2001 at Riverbend Middle School  (NOTE:  this meeting date was subsequently changed at their March 21 meeting to Thursday, May 3 with Thursday, May 10 as alternate date).

Transportation issues will be discussed at the next meeting as well as the community pictures.  The next meeting is set for March 21, 2001 at 7:00 PM in Conover City Hall.

The meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM.