St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning Committee Meeting 
November 14, 2001

Members present:  Mike Williams, Todd Miller, Cliff Isaac, Larry Brittain, Ira Cline, Anne Barrier (Chairperson and Planning Board liaison) and Jeff Kerley.

Members absent:  Mack Stafford, John Robinson, and John Cline.

Staff present: Mary George and Richard Smith from the Catawba County Planning and Community Development Department, Randy Williams and 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 7:09 p.m.

Minutes from the last meeting were approved as submitted.

Mrs. Barrier then told the group that they would continue the discussion from the last meeting about land use.  Ms. Baumann gave the group handouts with land use information on them.  Mrs. George informed the group that the Mountain View Small Area Planning Committee held their second community meeting with an excellent turnout from the community.

Ms. Baumann reviewed the land use distribution statistics for this area with the group.  She then moved the group into discussion of the guiding principles for their plan and asked for any other goals or feedback that they would like to have included.  Mr. Mike Williams asked if affordable housing meant trailers or mobile homes and Ms. Baumann said that generally it did not.  

Mr. Cline asked if there were any rules that keep builders from building very affordable homes for low-income families.  Mrs. George explained that the County does not regulate the size or cost of homes that are built; this is left up to the market.  Mr. Cline said that his concern is the singlewide manufactured homes that in essence are more of a burden on other property owners since the owners of these do not pay property taxes.

Mr. Isaac said that the group should promote affordable housing, but not manufactured housing.  Mr. Brittain expressed his concerns about the revenue problems that the County is facing at this time.  The group discussed issues with residential versus commercial uses and the balance needed because of their tax values to the County.  Mrs. George reviewed a zoning map of the area with the group and pointed out the different zoning types.

Affordable housing for the area is something that the group identified that needs to be addressed, but they emphasized that they preferred this not to be in the form of doublewide or singlewide manufactured homes.  Mrs. George told the group that using the latest permit data staff could devise a graph showing the number of permits that have been issued over the past years for these two forms of housing.  The group discussed that part of the problem is the instant gratification or fast turnaround that is available with manufactured home purchases compared to the more drawn out process of purchasing a site built home.

Mr. Kerley asked how much of the area the group could zone R-1.  Mrs. George said that there is no set number, but there must be an allowance for manufactured housing to be located within the County.  She shared the percentage recommendations for rezoning to R-1 for the Sherrills Ford and Mountain View Small Area Plans and what level that our legal staff deemed to be legitimate.  Mr. Kerley asked about tying certain subdivision requirements to the zoning districts.  Mrs. George said that this probably could not be done through subdivision standards so much as it could be done through the density requirements that the group comes up with.

Mrs. George told the group that part of what they should accomplish tonight is identifying density areas on a working map for their area.  Mr. Kerley said that he did not know how any lots could be sold for less than $30,000 if the subdivision has or is required to have curbing and guttering.  Mr. Randy Williams said that there are three subdivisions being constructed right now within Conover’s jurisdiction that have curbing and guttering and the lots and houses are in the affordable price range.

Mrs. George explained the County’s clustering subdivision options and how this allows for the infrastructure to be more confined and in turn, less expensive.  Mr. Cline asked who maintains the open space that is created with these subdivisions and Mrs. George told him that it was turned over to a homeowners’ association.  He asked about the probability of this space being developed at a later date and Mrs. George told him that is was permanent open space.

Mr. Kerley asked that the group be sure that the guiding principle of discouraging the accumulation of unnecessary materials/vehicles in residential areas, on public rights-of-way and near the river was enforceable.  Mrs. Baumann said that the group could achieve this by including it in their recommendations. Mrs. George told the group that the County presently only has one Code Enforcement Officer with an overwhelming caseload and limited available support for processing these cases.  Mr. Brittain said that part of the problem with the enforcement is that there must be revenue available to support it.  

Ms. Baumann then continued reviewing the guiding principles with the group.  The group decided that encouraging office/institutional type growth should be added as one of their principles.  The group also discussed preservation of farmland.  Some of the members wondered why they should preserve farmland if farmers cannot stay in business farming.  Mrs. George told them that this was brought up so that certain tools or guidelines could be implemented that made it easier for farmers to continue this use.  The group decided to reword this principle to say, “encourage farmland preservation”, rather than just “preserve farmland”.

Ms. Baumann then moved the group into reviewing the plan recommendations.  Mrs. George explained the difference between a mobile home park and a mobile home subdivision.  She told the group that in her thirteen years with the County, there have only been three mobile home parks approved.  The Committee agreed to have an additional standard of trees on lots in mobile home parks.

Mr. Kerley asked if what this group comes up with in their plan compared to what other committees recommend would cause the County to have different standards in various areas of the County.  Mrs. George told him that eventually, there would be an effort to bring things plans together under one ordinance.  She said that some things would be area specific like density and transportation, but others, such as development standards, could be consolidated and enforced throughout the County.  The Committee agreed to having standard subdivision signs, sidewalks in developments to link with Hickory’s and Conover’s plans and internal subdivision access.   The Committee also agreed to add enforcement of the County’s solid waste ordinance to the residential plan recommendations.

The group discussed what type of restrictions they would want to include in the plan to apply to commercial developments.  They indicated that this area should have some level of flexibility for the commercial developers to work with.  Mr. Brittain said that given the small percentage of commercial, office and institutional zoning that is presently in this area, the group needs to plan more for these types of uses especially since part of their goal for this plan is to plan for the future.  

The group decided that they did not want to incorporate architectural controls into their plan recommendations.  They wanted design standards to be similar to the current Hwy. 321 guidelines with the option of providing parking in the rear instead of landscaping a front parking lot.  Standards would also include signage and access management.  

The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 12, 2001 at 7:00 p.m. in the Conover City Hall. 

Mrs. Barrier adjourned the meeting at 9:12 pm.