St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning Committee
November 9, 2000 meeting


The first meeting of the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning Committee began at approximately 7:05 PM in the Riverbend Middle School Media Center. Members present: Anne Barrier (Chairperson), Larry Brittain, John Robinson, Florence Little, Mike Williams, and Jeff Kerley. Members absent: Todd Miller, Cliff Issac, John Cline, and Ira Cline.

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

Others present: Randy Williams from the City of Conover, Tom Carr from the City of Hickory and Dan Hunsucker.

Ms. Barrier opened the meeting and welcomed all present. She began by thanking the members for their commitment to the future planning efforts of the area. She emphasized to the committee that they should be focused on the long range planning effort (10 to 20 years) of the area. She introduced staff as well as Mr. Williams and Mr. Carr.

Mr. Tippett began a discussion on the WPCOG's role in the area as well as their role in the small area planning process. The WPCOG assists in regional planning for the Unifour counties. Their clients are the four counties (Catawba, Burke, Alexander and Caldwell) and 24 municipalities within the four counties. Their responsibilities can range from contracted help (such as their role in the small area plans) to providing on-site planning staff to some of the smaller municipalities who do not staff a full time planner. They charge nominal dues to members (not counting contracted services) and membership is voluntary. There are about 50 people on staff at the WPCOG. Mr. Tippett's responsibilities involve land use and transportation planning.

Mr. Dove stressed the large effort involved in small area planning. He reiterated what Ms. Barrier stated regarding the long-range vision for the planning process. Staff is available to the committee to assist them and to provide them with information. Staff is to be considered a resource for the committee.

Ms. George began a discussion on the evolution of the small area plans in the County. She stated that the Catawba County Board of Commissioners have been investing resources in the County which allows for long range planning efforts. The Strategic Growth Plan, that was accepted last September, addressed 16 strategies used to manage growth in the County. One of those strategies was the creation of small area plans. This is different from the already in-place 2010 Vision Quest Plan. The 2010 plan lacked some public participation and did not include individual small area plans. The County has been broken down into seven distinct areas (to be known as small area planning areas). Currently the Sherrills Ford and Mountain View areas are underway. St. Stephens/Oxford, being another high growth area, is the next area to begin working with. The County goal is to involve any municipalities in discussions especially municipalities that neighbor the St. Stephens/Oxford area. Staff's goal is to educate the committee members regarding transportation, watershed and other issues that affect their community as well as plans that are taking place in neighboring municipalities. The committee members will then solicit input from their community as to their issues of concern. The committee will then develop a community plan to be presented to the Catawba County Board of Commissioners. Ms. George focused the committees' attention to the nine maps on display. She made mention of the large amount of water lines currently in place in the area. The small area planning process can typically take one year to complete for an area, but can take longer. Ms. George told the members that the committee activities will get newspaper exposure as well as web page postings of events and members names to help aid in the public acknowledgement process. Ms. George explained the photo exercise that was helpful for the other small area planning committees. This involves staff distributing cameras to the committee members and the members taking pictures of both positive and negative images both from within and from outside their community.

The committee members that were present gave a brief introduction of themselves. They include, Mr. Larry Brittain, Mr. John Robinson, Ms. Florence Little, Mr. Mike Williams and Mr. Jeff Kerley.

A monthly meeting schedule was discussed. The second Wednesday of each month at 7:00 PM in the Conover City Hall Council Chambers was agreed upon.

Mr. Dove wanted the members to become familiar with the maps on display. He went on to say the maps display a variety of information including patterns of growth over two decades, current land use, subdivision activity/water lines, residential structure locations, future land use plan, vegetation, farm land, slopes and flood plain/hydrology.

Mr. Tippett said that countywide thoroughfare maps will be provided as well.

Mr. Carr from the City of Hickory began a discussion on Hickory by Choice, the City's long range plan. The plan coordinates land use and transportation and provides development direction for residential and suburban growth. The plan also encourages pedestrian friendly roads. Impacts on Lake Hickory are a concern since it is a regional water supply.

Mr. Williams mentioned that Conover is looking to update the City's long range plan. The City is surrounded by municipalities on all sides except the north, so north is the only growth opportunity for Conover. Conover wants to remain a partner in the planning process.

Mr. Tippett began a discussion on demographics. Catawba, Burke, Alexander and Caldwell Counties, (the Unifour), represent the fourth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in the State with an estimated population of 327,000 (1999). Charlotte is the largest, the Triad region is second and the Triangle region is the third largest. They all have populations over a million. Our MSA is unique because the largest city (Hickory) has 35,000 people, which is 1/10th the population of the entire MSA region. Most of the region is unincorporated. St. Stephens/Oxford is a high growth area. Catawba County has grown by 45,000 people in the past 30 years (that is 50% growth). High growth puts demands on services such as roads, schools, water, etc. Employment opportunities cause the high growth in regions. Census tracts 101 and 102 make up the majority of the St. Stephens/Oxford area with some of the area in tract 103. Catawba County had the highest in-commuting rate (for workers) in the State with a rate of 1.27. That is a 27% increase of people during the work hours. People commute because the jobs are here. Manufacturing jobs are still a factor, but service industry jobs are the largest employer. The area has large retail sales which can been seen by the retail developments along Catawba Valley Boulevard, Highway 70 and even in the downtown areas. Some other demographics include:

  1. There were 15,000 people in the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning region in 1990.
  2. Currently there are 18,000 people in the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning region.
  3. The estimated population increases to 21,000 people in the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning region by 2010.
  4. The estimated population increases to 23,000 people in the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning region by 2015.
The region can be characterized by strong steady growth, mainly residential zoning with some commercial zoning and little industrial zoning.

Mr. Dove made a suggestion for next months meeting topic for committee members to address three questions; 1) issues they see for the area, 2) their vision for the area, 3) likes and dislikes of the area.

The meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM.