Startown Small Area Plan Committee Meeting
for March 11, 2004

The Startown Small Area Planning Committee met on Thursday, March 11, 2004 in the 2nd Floor Meeting Room of the Catawba County Government Center in Newton, North Carolina.

Members present: Tony Wolfe, Chairman; Chip Canupp; Vice-Chairman; Kevin Saunders; Clarence Hood; Charlie Wyant; and Dawn Mull.

Members absent: Jerry Lael, Keith Stahley, Reba Reinhardt, Rusty Lutz, Thomas Jones, and Glenn Pattishall.

Staff present: Mary George, Rich Hoffman and Connie Killian from the Catawba County Planning Department; and Anthony Starr and John Kenny, consultants from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.

The meeting was called was called to order at 7:00 pm by Chairman Wolfe where he welcomed everyone.

Revised minutes were given out to the Committee at this time. Ms. George asked that everyone review the section where they had spoken at the last meeting concerning their specific likes and dislikes so that their comments would be reflected correctly. As there were no comments or changes, the revised minutes were approved as presented.

Mr. Kevin Saunders was introduced to the group as this was his first time in attendance. Mr. Saunders informed the Committee that he had worked for the Town of Maiden for many years, and at the present time he was serving as its Interim Manager.

Mr. John Kenny spoke to the Committee about two Planning efforts that were presently taken place in this area. The first being the Foresight Committee, which is a strategic planning effort and the second being Future Forward Economic Alliance that is a new project that focuses on economic welfare. He told them about Foresight strategic planning and the fact that this is the third round for this group with the first starting in the middle 80s. This group focuses on the economic welfare of the County and the different issues that are involved. The issues chosen were Education, Jobs and Economy, Environmental, and Leadership and Political Action. A task force was formed for each of these separate issues to study and to come up with strategies and recommendations for changes. These recommendations and strategies were given to the Foresight Committee who then presents them to the Board of Commissioners for implementation.

Mr. Kenny told the members about the Future Forward brochure which he gave out at this time. He stated that this is an effort, which looks at a region to figure out its economic strengths and weaknesses. There were four regions designated to undergo these studies in North Carolina and the County's region was alloted $400,000 for this study. The County's region included 12 counties west and north of Catawba County (western North Carolina) including the 10th, 11th, and a portion of the12th Congressional Districts. The Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) helped to facilitate this study, and the actual work was completed by consultants. A grant application is being pursued from the Federal Government to implement some of the recommendations. Some of the components of this grant are commercial development; looking at sites that have been contaminated and how they can be re-used; trying to identify industries which are part of the supply chain for existing industries already located in the area; and getting funds to keep the Committee going for another year or two.

Ms. George spoke to the Committee at this time. She told them that she and Planning staff were going to tell about the County's planning efforts and basic zoning so that when they started to talk about zoning, etc. they would be informed and better able to make recommendations for their area. In NC, comprehensive plans are required to be in-place before a County could establish and implement zoning. She said that the County's first comprehensive plan was a document called Vision Quest 2010. This Plan was adopted in 1996 and was a comprehensive review of where growth would be seen in the County. This Plan is used as a work tool for the Planning Department, especially when someone asks for a rezoning.

Ms. George explained next about the Hwy. 321 Plan, which was a comprehensive project adopted in 1996 with a map that consisted of three planning approaches: 1) development of a comprehensive plan; 2) adoption of higher development standards (zoning); and 3) proactive rezoning of land within the corridor. The Plan was a multi-jurisdictional plan with the cities of Hickory, Newton, and Maiden, which proactively addressed the future development within the Hwy. 321 Corridor. The County's zoning controlled about 85% of the land area in this corridor. This project was a result of the 1989 Foresight task force recommendation. She explained the different land uses that would be allowed - urban activity, an urban transition area, suburban residential area, rural residential, and rural conservation area. She stated that one of the recommendations from the Plan was the establishment of a new zoning district-Hwy. 321 ED District. This district established new zoning standards for the Hwy. 321 corridor. It also encouraged assemblage of land for large-scale developments. The new district addressed driveway connections, landscaping, signage, setbacks, etc. This district was comprised of a 321-ED (I) Industrial and 321-ED (MX) mixed uses.

Ms. George said that in 1996 a proactive (initiated by County) rezoning of approximately 2,000 acres was completed by the Board of Commissioners to preserve the economic potential of the Hwy. 321 corridor.

Ms. George informed the Committee that after the Vision Quest Plan, and the Hwy. 321 Plan were adopted, the Commissioners wanted to address growth in the County so they established a Strategic Growth Plan. This Plan was accepted by the Board in 1999 and included a series of 16 strategies, such as the development of Small Area Plans and revised lot sizes for subdivision development.

Ms. George turned the meeting over to Rich Hoffman to explain the temporary criteria for subdivision development based primarily on the availability of water, sewer, and school capacity, i.e the "zoning matrix." Mr. Hoffman told the Committee about the subdivision process and the day-to-day operation of subdividing properties. He stated that currently we have three types of subdivisions-family, minor, and major. Major subdivisions go through a Subdivision Review Board (SRB) for review and approval. Staff makes the final approval and recommendations after approval has been received from the SRB. He stated that a zoning matrix is a temporary measure that was devised to set up a sliding scale for different lot sizes. He gave the Committee several examples using the zoning matrix in subdividing property. He explained the school capacity chart that he had given to the Committee for its information.

Mr. Hoffman informed the Committee that four of the small area plans had been finished and all four had recommended the release of school capacity to determine lot sizes. He said that having public water lines and school capacity allowed smaller sized lots. If you have both water and sewer, smaller lots sizes would be allowed. The chart says a minimum size of two acre lots are required if you do not have water, sewer or school capacity.

Ms. Killian informed the Committee that County zoning had been in existence since 1974 and was comprised of three residential zones - R-1, R-2, and R-3. She explained that R-1 zoning was the strictest zoning that only allowed stick-built and modular homes. She stated that R-2 residential was the zone that allowed all different types of residential uses including mobile homes (single and double wides) stick-built, modulars, and duplexes. She further stated that 85-90 percent of the Startown area is presently zoned residential. The other residential area-R-3-only allows stick-built, modulars and doublewides. This zone acts as a buffer between the R-1 and R-2 district.

Ms. Killian stated that there are three Commercial zones-C-1, C-2, and C-3. She told the Committee that the C-1 zone was a neighborhood business district that served the community, i.e. banks, grocery stores dentist offices etc.; C-2 was a district that allowed businesses to be located that would serve the traveling public such as a car sales lot, mini warehouses, restaurant, etc.; and C-3 was a zone established to place all nonconforming businesses when County zoning went into effect.

Ms. Killian stated that there was a zone called O-I (Office-Institutional) that allowed uses such as professional services, i.e. accountants, doctors, etc. She stated that there are two industrial zones-E-1 and E-2. She further stated that E-1 was the zone that allowed light manufacturing, processing and assembly uses, warehousing and distribution and servicing enterprises such as bus garages, cabinet shop manufacturing, etc. The E-2 zone allowed intensive manufacturing, process and assembly uses such as furniture factories, merchant distributors, rock quarries, etc. She said that the ED-I and ED-MX, which is located in the Hwy. 321 Corridor, was explained earlier by Ms. George.

Ms. George told the Committee that the Planning Office was in the process of writing an UDO (Unified Development Ordinance), which is an ordinance that would include recommendations from all the small area plans. This plan would also include subdivision regulations, zoning regulations and any other land development plans or regulations in one document designed to be user friendly for the public. She stated when all the small area plans are finished, there will be new zoning districts established to incorporate all the different plan recommendations. .

Ms. Killian described the manufactured home appearance criteria, a new set of regulations which began in 1996 following massive rezonings within the County of over 6,000 acres with over 500 individual property owners. After visits with the mobile home industry by Planning staff, criteria was established for manufactured homes to help them blend with stick-built homes. This criteria included: shingled-pitched roofs with vinyl siding; underpinning of homes; and site control (all homes facing the same way). This new criteria was approved March 18, 1996 by the Board of Commissioners.

Ms. George informed the Board that in the early '90s the State mandated that all its Counties adopt watershed regulations to protect drinking water supplies. Catawba County has 60-70% of its land area designated in watershed districts. This requires the County to put additional land use regulations on lots in terms of what size of lots and how much of the lot can be developed.

Mr. Starr stated that the next meeting was scheduled on April 8, which is prior to the Easter holidays. This meeting date was changed by consensus of the Committee to Tuesday, April 6th to be held at the same time and place. Mr. Starr stated that this would be another informational meeting at which Planners or their representatives from Newton, Hickory and Maiden would be present to speak concerning their plans.

Ms. George reminded the Committee that May 11th would be the meeting date for the first public input meeting and will be held at Startown School beginning at 6:30 pm.

Ms. Starr explained to the members that it was important that they invite people personally by word of mouth. Posters will be disturbed to them at the next meeting for them to get out in the community concerning this information meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:03 pm.