St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning Committee Meeting
June 13, 2001

Members present: John Cline, Mack Stafford, Mike Williams, Anne Barrier (Chairperson and Planning Board liaison), Cliff Isaac, Todd Miller, and Jeff Kerley.

Members absent: Ira Cline, John Robinson, and Larry Brittain

Staff present: Mary George and Richard Smith from the Catawba County Planning and Community Development Department, Anthony Starr from the City of Conover and Susan Baumann from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG).

Mrs. Barrier called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m.

Minutes from the last meeting were approved with one minor change.

Mrs. George reviewed the results from the Community Input Meeting. (These results were included in the agenda packets that were mailed to the group members prior to this meeting.) The group discussed the specific concern of recruiting businesses with tax incentives. This was listed on the sheets at the meeting as controls on the Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Kerley said that there was a gentleman at his table that did not want any tax incentives offered to businesses at all.

Mr. Cline said that the comments at his table about this topic were from a positive standpoint. He said that folks just wanted to see existing vacant commercial structures being used first instead of allowing new ones to be built out somewhere else. He said that the group wanted to prevent sprawl.

Mrs. George indicated to the group that the questions that were posed at the Community Input Meeting were also published in the paper. She said that unfortunately no one responded to these questions. She said that one gentleman came by the Planning office and got a copy of these questions, but did not return any response.

The group discussed the lack of public input and the low turnout at the Community Input Meeting. Mr. Williams said that everyone that he has talked to about this feels like they will not be heard, so there is no reason to attend these meetings. Mrs. Barrier said that she felt like the public still did not understand the small area planning process and that it consists of public involvement.

Mr. Cline said that he has received feedback from people that he has spoken to about this process. He said that people are just busy and have a great deal of obligations.

Mrs. George asked the group about the format of the community meeting. The group indicated that they thought that this was a good format to use; it was just unfortunate that the turnout was not any better.

The next item on the agenda was the photo exercise. Mr. Stafford presented his pictures to the group. He emphasized open spaces and gave examples of several attractive developments. He said that he thought that it would be best to limit businesses coming into this area and that the people in his group at the community meeting indicated this also. Mr. Stafford showed the things he didn't' like which were junk piles close to a river and conversion of neighborhoods to rental with large numbers of people living in one residence.

Mr. Isaac presented his photograph exercise to the group. He gave an example of a subdivision with houses that were about twenty feet apart. He pointed out some rental units that he said were not appealing and was something that he thought should be prevented from being put in this area. He had a picture of a subdivision on Deal Road that he thought was okay and an urban apartment complex. He said that he liked Heritage Village (an assisted living/retirement community) and showed a picture of this to the group. He said that he thought that this area could use more developments such as this. He emphasized more spaces between houses as a positive feature.

Mr. Cline said that he still has his pictures, but just was not sure if he could still present them. Mrs. George told him that he could still present them to the group if he would like to.

Next, the group discussed transportation issues. Ms. Baumann handed out a sheet with examples of multi-lane highways illustrated on them and a sheet with the guiding principles and plan recommendations for this area. Mrs. George reviewed these with the group and told them that NCDOT has indicated that the speed limit on C&B Farm Road will be reduced as suggested by this group.

The group briefly discussed a few roads in the area that were not paved, but were maintained by NCDOT. They also discussed a few roads that needed to be NCDOT maintained, but are not for one reason or another.

Mrs. George reviewed the transportation handouts with the group. The group discussed the types of multi-lane highways and most of the members seemed to be more in favor of the 4-lane divided type highways. Mr. Cline said that the only issue that he sees with these types of highways is the problems that they can cause for farmers crossing roads with their tractors. He said that they are nice as long as they do not get too trashy and are well maintained.

The group discussed the proposed toll road near Hickory that was a finalist with NCDOT. There was much discussion about whether or not this would be a feasible option for the State to approve.

Mrs. George asked Mr. Cline about his concern with the 4-lane divided highways and the access that should be provided for farmers. Mr. Cline said that he felt like this would have to be done for a highway like NC Highway 16 because of the number of farmers in this area. Mr. Williams said that a divided road would not prevent businesses because if an area has high traffic, then the businesses will come. The Committee agreed to a 4-lane divided highway cross-section with landscaped median for Hwy. 16 with the stipulations that special attention be given for farm crossings and that the plantings are low-growing and low-maintenance.

The Committee then discussed a typical recommended cross-section for Springs Road. The Committee agreed also to a four-lane divided highway with landscaped median with the stipulations that crossovers would be installed at every mile, major State-maintained roads and large developments.

The group discussed the dissolution of farms in this area and how this seems to be such an increasing problem. Mr. Kerley said that he heard a farmer state at a Hickory-By-Choice meeting that he had worked his farm all of his life and raised his family on it, but he wanted to have the option to sell his property for his retirement. He said that the farmer objected to not having the option to sell his property if he so desired.

Traffic problems on C&B Farm Road and Section House Road were discussed. The group said that the increase in housing developments is where most of this traffic increase has come from.

Mrs. George asked the group if there were any other areas that the members felt like the speed limit should be reduced. Mr. Cline said that he thought that developments should be able to put in speed bumps to help slow down traffic. Mrs. Barrier said that she thought that this was a law enforcement issue.

Mr. Miller asked about the speed limit within a subdivision. He said that the subdivisions that are out in the County do not have anything posted or underlying like city's that have the 35 mile per hour speed limit, unless otherwise posted. Mrs. George said that she would check on this because this was a valid concern.

Traffic calming devices were also discussed such as risers, rumble strips, and paint strips.

Mr. Cline brought up sidewalks as something that enhanced the area. Mr. Kerley said that sidewalks on one side of the road in rural areas was okay, but that he thought for them to be required on both sides of the road was excessive. He said that he did think that they should be required in higher density developments. He said that there should be a threshold where sidewalks are required in subdivisions that have greater density. He said that they should not be required in subdivisions, for example, with 3-acre lots.

The members discussed this idea of creating a threshold in the form of a density level for subdivisions where sidewalks would be required. The Committee agreed that sidewalks should be installed in developments of greater than 25 lots and lot sizes of one-half acre. Mr. Kerley said that he thought that the sidewalks should be required before a house is given a final inspection approval. He said that if this is done near the end of construction, then the sidewalk would match the grade of the lot, the driveway, and other layout features. He said that this is done in Mecklenburg County.

Public transportation was discussed by the group, specifically Piedmont Wagon. The group said that this was not used because people do not want to give up their cars. Mr. Isaac said that, to him, it seems like it would be more cost productive if the city just paid the service of providing a taxi for the few people that use this service. Mr. Cline said that he looked at this service for his mother and the cost for Piedmont Wagon is 75cents. Ms. Barrier said that the bus stops are not located near anything. She said that promoting this service better, especially their handicap accessibility and locating the stops in more convenient locations should improve this service. Mrs. George mentioned to the group that staff had met with a representative from the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) and discussed their vanpooling services.

Next the group discussed turn lanes and the areas where these are needed. The group decided that turn lanes should be a requirement at every school. Also traffic analysis for turn lane requirements should include not only the current traffic counts but also projected traffic counts from the proposed development.

The group will finish the discussion of transportation at the next meeting and Randy Williams will be presenting Conover's land use planning efforts. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 11, 2001.

Mrs. Barrier adjourned the meeting at 9:05 pm.