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

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

Member absent: Mack Stafford.

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

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

Ms. Barrier opened the meeting and welcomed all present.  The minutes from the February 13, 2002 meeting were approved.  

A discussion arose regarding sign regulations.  It was mentioned that off-premise signs (to include billboards and other off-premise signs such as real estate signs) are not allowed in Conover.  Billboards are also banned in Hickory in all but a few places.      

The committee discussed billboards on Hwy 16 and I-40.  There did not seem to be opposition to allowing billboards on I-40 as long as there was a spacing requirement.  The committee wanted to wait until next meeting to discuss allowing billboards off of I-40.  There was consensus regarding restricting (or not allowing) billboards on Hwy 16.  

Mr. Starr: Conover allows billboards along Hwy 40 in non-residential zones.

Billboards are allowed in the County in commercial and industrial zoning districts except in the Hwy 321 corridor.  There was opposition from the committee to restrict billboards countywide.  

Mr. Hoffman: Addressed the Committee’s request for information regarding cluster subdivisions.  Clustering is a subdivision design technique where the overall density of the parcel is maintained but, by clustering lots to certain areas of the site, the size of the lots can be reduced.  Other benefits to the developer may include more lots per site.  He displayed a map of an approved cluster subdivision called Long Bay.  It showed a 134-acre site with a conventional subdivision design yielding 43 lots.  Each lot would be developed at 2-acres.  The site would not yield 67 lots under the 1 house per two-acre requirement due to the necessity for the road network to access all the lots.  With a cluster development the density is calculated before plans are drawn so for the same 134-acre site a cluster subdivision could yield 67 lots.  The actual lot size can be less than 2-acres since it is the density that is regulated not each specific lot size.  The lot would still have to meet zoning setback regulations as defined in the cluster ordinance.  Certain parcels lend themselves to cluster developments, i.e., flood plain areas, steep slopes, land that would not be developed otherwise.  A cluster subdivision requires a percentage of the site be retained as common open space.  Currently the County Subdivision Ordinance requires 30% of the site to remain as open space (area not developed for structures).  This is recorded on the final plat.  A homeowners association is required to be established to maintain the open space.  Open space does allow for passive recreation activities as the neighborhood permits.  Currently cluster subdivisions are allowed countywide as an option.  Cluster subdivisions in low-density areas preserve the rural character.  

The committee felt that since the current Ordinance allows for this option, and they felt it should remain just an option, that no specific recommendation would be adopted.  

Ms. George: Discussed the Sherrills Ford SAP where they are recommending that a density bonus be allowed proportional to the amount of open-space dedicated above the 30% minimum requirement.

The committee then began a discussion on residential density.  Existing public infrastructure (water and sewer lines) were emphasized in their decisions.  Ms. George also noted that the existence of public water and sewer lines does not necessarily require that the committee propose high density for an area.  There were four different areas that were noted for density.  

1) An area 435’ from the lakes/Catawba River would have a minimum lot size of ¾ acre with clustering or 1 acre without clustering.  Minimum lot widths would be 100 feet.
2) A low-density area of 1 lot per acre density with allowances to reduce lots to ½ acre with clustering.  
3) A medium-density area of ¾ acre lots.
4) A high-density area of ½ acre lots without public water or 15,000 square foot lots with public water.

If someone chooses to not cluster, the committee still recommends the following open-space provisions:

1) 5% in high-density areas.
2) 7.5% in medium density areas.
3) 10% in low-density areas.

Mr. Isaac: Wanted to remind the committee that at the community input meeting rural character was emphasized. 

The next meeting is scheduled for April 10th, 2002.  Discussion on residential density will continue.  Also the Committee will begin to discuss housing issues.
The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.