PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
MONDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2008, 7:00 P.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, NC
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will conduct public hearings on 1) a request to rezone 3.24 acres at 7774 Hudson Chapel Road and 2122 Clyde Road in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning District from R-30 Residential to RC Rural Commercial District; 2) a request to rezone approximately 54 acres, located along Highway 150 near the proposed Highway 16 Bypass intersection in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning District, from R-20 Residential and HC Highway Commercial to PD-CD Planned Development-Conditional District; 3) a proposed Voluntary Agricultural District and Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural District Ordinance and 4) proposed amendments to the County’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO); and receive a report on 2007 tax collections when the Board meets at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, October 20, 2008, in the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board will also consider accepting a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for reimbursement of some costs associated with housing potential undocumented criminal aliens in local jails; the use of the sole source exception from bidding for contracts, for the purchase of software for field based reporting and to aid in the dispatch of public safety personnel; a proposed Work First Plan for the County for the period from October 2009 through September 2011 and authorizing the County Tax Administrator to allow, on an individual basis, extensions for listing personal property.
A. The Board will hold a public hearing on a request by Princeton Management to rezone two parcels, totaling 3.24 acres, from R-30 Residential to RC Rural Commercial. The properties are located at 7774 Hudson Chapel Road and 2122 Clyde Road in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning District. One parcel is currently zoned R-30 Residential and the location of a business known as Bill’s Marina. The second parcel is zoned R-30 Residential and occupied by a single-family residential structure. Lake Norman is to the east of the parcels. Property to the south, north and west is presently zoned R-30 and R-40 Residential, with one parcel being used for commercial purposes and the others with single family residences or currently vacant.
The current R-30 Residential District permits a maximum of 1 dwelling unit per 0.75 acre, which theoretically calculates to four parcels for individual dwelling units. The RC Rural Commercial district being requested would permit a maximum floor area ratio of one square foot of building floor space per 5 square feet of land area. The allowed floor area would be 28,226 square feet. If the rezoning is approved, further development of the properties would be subject to the Catawba River Corridor-Overlay, Floodplain Management-Overlay, WS-IV Watershed Critical Area, and development standards in the County’s Unified Development Ordinance. For non-residential developments, the Catawba River Corridor-Overlay would require that any future lots meet a minimum lot width along the water front and that Low Impact Development techniques be incorporated in the development of the property. Any structures proposed to be located in the floodplain would have to meet floodplain regulations. Because the properties are located within the WS-IV Watershed Critical Area, the maximum built upon area for the 3.24 acres may be as little as 24 percent or 0.77 acres (33,872 sq. ft.). Both public water and sewer are unavailable at this location. The properties are currently served by individual well and septic systems.
Hudson Chapel Road is considered a minor collector road. There are no current traffic counts for Hudson Chapel Road in the area of the properties. 2007 traffic counts along Hudson Chapel Road range between 940 and 3,200 vehicles per day. The Catawba County Thoroughfare Plan indicates the road design can accommodate 13,300 vehicles per day and does not recommend any road improvements. Clyde Road is a local residential road for which there is no traffic data available.
The Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan serves as the current land use plan for this area. The subject property is in an area recommended for rural commercial use. Because the request is for a rural commercial use district, staff considers the request to be consistent with the Small Area Plan. A rezoning to RC Rural Commercial would align the zoning district with the pre-existing commercial use, which was established prior to the adoption of the County’s first zoning ordinance.
The Planning Board held a public hearing on September 29, 2008. Eleven persons, including the applicant, spoke in favor of the request. Eleven persons spoke in opposition. Those in favor felt the request was in conformance with the Small Area Plan, would increase property values by allowing the marina to expand or remodel, and offer additional conveniences to the area. Those opposing the request felt approval would increase traffic in the area, allow uses in the vicinity of their residences which are not suitable, decrease property values, or did not support a request without a plan. By a vote of 7-1, the Planning Board recommended adoption of a statement affirming the consistency of the rezoning request with the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan, and the rezoning of the properties from R-30 Residential to RC Rural Commercial based on the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan depiction of the properties as being in a future rural commercial area, the purpose of the RC Rural Commercial district, and the ability to align the use with the correct zoning district designation by this rezoning.
B. The Board will conduct a public hearing on proposed actions regarding Crosland, LLC’s proposed BridgeWater development. The Board will consider a request to rezone approximately 54 acres in Catawba County from R-20 Residential and HC Highway Commercial to PD-CD Planned Development-Conditional District and approval of a Development Agreement for the BridgeWater development, as proposed by Crosland, LLC.
The properties are located along Highway 150 and the proposed Highway 16 Bypass intersection in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning District. As proposed, the project crosses into Lincoln County with approximately 54 acres in Catawba County and 37 acres in Lincoln County. The property includes parcels that are vacant and zoned R-20 Residential and HC Highway Commercial. Some properties to the north are zoned R-20 Residential and occupied by single-family homes or are vacant. Other property to the north is zoned PD-CD and is the site for a proposed Lowe’s Home Center. Properties to the east are zoned R-20 residential, with a single family home, and GI General Industrial. The future Highway 16 Bypass is to the west and properties to the south are in Lincoln County and zoned I-G General Industrial.
The planned development district is established to encourage the master planning of large scale, multiple and/or mixed use development patterns. Applicants who propose a planned development have more flexibility and creativity in design than is possible under conventional zoning regulations. The conditional zoning districts allow for the consideration of certain uses that, because of their nature or scale, have particular impacts on both the immediate area and the community as a whole and are created or established for selected criteria. The development of these uses cannot be predetermined and controlled by general district regulations. In addition, circumstances arise when a general zoning district designation would not be appropriate for a certain property, but specific uses permitted under the district would be consistent with the objectives of conditional zoning. Conditional zoning districts are based on a firm development proposal. The applicants have requested rezoning to a Planned Development – Conditional District (PD-CD).
The gross floor area of the BridgeWater project is proposed to be 704,900 square feet consisting of retail, office, and flex-industrial uses. Approximately 400,000 square feet is proposed to be in Catawba County. The portion of the project in Catawba County is in the Mixed Use Corridor-Overlay (MUC-O), which guides building, site, and pedestrian design, provides standards for traffic management, landscaping, screening and buffering, lists parking options, and states lighting and signage requirements. The project as proposed will meet the design standards of the MUC-O and PD districts.
BridgeWater has proposed to incorporate different activity nodes within the development. The “main retail” node is expected to be the location of a “big box” anchor store balanced by junior anchor stores. Its parking fields will be designed to be broken into smaller fields separated by extensive vegetation and open space areas. The open space areas will include sidewalks, a bus stop shelter, and other pedestrian amenities such as pavilions and trellises. Outparcels will be developed along Highway 150 and have pedestrian and vehicular linkages to the “main retail” and “village district” nodes. A “secondary retail” node is expected to be developed with junior anchor stores, outparcels, and community sites, which could include a park and ride location. A linkage road, sidewalks, and a trail system will provide connectivity between the “secondary retail” node and a “village district”. The “village district” node is intended to include a common village green, small retail shops, and on-street parking designed on a pedestrian scale. The arrangement of the buildings and village green is intended to encourage community events, outdoor dining, and a main street atmosphere located near water feature amenities. All of the nodes will be connected through a series of roads. Connectivity will be made available to pedestrians by use of sidewalks, a trail system, and a multi-use pathway along Highway 150 on the development’s frontage.
As part of the conditional zoning, a developer submits a list of voluntary conditions which exceed the general zoning standards that would apply to the site if the property is rezoned. Some of the conditions offered by the applicants, and recommended by staff, include types of exterior building materials; screening of dumpsters and loading and service areas; benches, trails and sidewalks; decorative exterior lighting; tree medians; and open spaces of approximately 20 acres.
Adequate public water will be made available to the site. The development of the property will necessitate the installation
of public sewer service. Public sewer is currently not available; however, a development agreement included in this request defines the provider’s and developer’s responsibility toward participating in making sewer available to the site.
The Catawba County Thoroughfare Plan designates Highway 150 as a minor arterial road, designed to serve as a link between cities, larger towns and other major traffic generators. In 2005, the average daily traffic count along Highway 150 was 12,000 vehicles per day (10,000 vehicles per day west and east of Highway 16 respectively). According to the Thoroughfare Plan, the estimated capacity of Highway 150 is 14,200 vehicles per day. The Catawba County Thoroughfare Plan recommends the widening of Highway 150 to a four lane divided boulevard. The 2009-2015 Transportation Improvement Plan states that right-of-way acquisition for Highway 150 improvements will begin in 2014 starting with the segment from I-77 in Iredell County to eastern Catawba County. According to an August 2008 Traffic Impact Analysis, the BridgeWater development is projected to generate an additional 17,007 daily trips. That analysis recommends off-site transportation improvements to accommodate the additional traffic. Subject to the review of the North Carolina Department Of Transportation, the developer will install all transportation improvements recommended in the Traffic Impact Analysis or any amended analysis. The cost of off-site traffic improvements is estimated to be $3.8 – $4.5 million.
The Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan serves as the current land use plan for this area and the subject properties are located in an area designated as a regional commercial center in the Plan. Because the request is for a PD-CD Planned Development-Conditional District, and conforms to the recommendations of the Small Area Plan, staff considers this request to be consistent with the adopted land use plan.
North Carolina General Statutes §153A-349 et. seq. allows local governments to enter into a development agreement with a developer to mitigate for the impacts of a large-scale development project by the securing of amenities which will address growth, improve quality of life and provide long-term benefits to the community. The agreement also provides assurance to the developer that development standards will remain stable over the long-term life of the project. The proposed BridgeWater development, due to its size and long-term build out, qualifies under the General Statutes to be subject to a development agreement. The County and representatives of Crosland, LLC have co-drafted a development agreement that is viewed to be in the best interest of the county, by providing orderly growth and long-term benefits to the community, and meet the interests of the developers. The agreement establishes the terms and structure of the development by Crosland, LLC of approximately 54 acres. It provides for donation of land to the public, a schedule for construction deadlines, and cost-share percentages toward sewer installation. Adjoining property owners have received individually mailed notice and the properties have been posted with signs noting the time and place of a public hearing.
The Planning Board held a public hearing on October 7, 2008. The applicant addressed the determining factors in choosing the location for the proposed development, including the market, central proximity to major roads (321, I-40, I-485, I-77), and their projected trade area. No one spoke in opposition to the request. The Planning Board generally felt the development would offer positive economic opportunities and provide quality development which could serve as a model for other development. The Planning Board voted 8-0 to recommend the rezoning of the properties from R-20 Residential and HC Highway Commercial to PD-CD Planned Development-Conditional District based upon recommendations of the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan, the availability and/or provision of adequate infrastructure as identified in the development agreement; and a Design Development Guidelines booklet which includes the development standards, associated Illustrative Site Plan, traffic improvements and information presented as part of the conditional zoning process including revisions to proposed signage. The Planning Board further recommended approval of the proposed development agreement subject to technical modifications, as approved and agreed to by the County Attorney and staff.
C. The Board will conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of a proposed Voluntary Agricultural District and Enhanced Agricultural District Ordinance. The North Carolina Farmland Preservation Enabling Act of 1985 authorized counties to establish programs to encourage the preservation of farmland. One such program provides for the establishment of protected farm areas called “voluntary agricultural districts.” Agricultural districts raise public awareness of agriculture activities, support the continued viability of local agriculture and help local government officials identify active farming communities. The designation of agricultural districts would provide farmers with a series of benefits so long as the farmer was willing to restrict non-farming development for ten years. By being included in a district, a farm is recognized in the community, which provides a sense of pride. Public notice of the proximity to agricultural districts is provided. The program also allows for creation of a new Agricultural Advisory Board, which would review applications for districts and makes recommendations to other Boards on farming-related issues.
The concept of adopting a County voluntary agricultural district ordinance was identified in Catawba County’s 1996 Strategic Growth Plan. One of the sixteen growth strategies in the plan was to establish a voluntary program to encourage farmland preservation in the county. Several of the adopted Small Area Plans (Balls Creek, Catawba, and Sherrills Ford) recommend the establishment of a county voluntary agricultural district program. Since 1990, North Carolina has lost 14,000 farms to development, a national record. Farming activity in the county has seen a steady downward trend since agricultural censuses have been conducted. The most recent agricultural census conducted in 2002 indicates the number of farms in the County has fallen from 739 to 719, which represents a 3% decrease since 1997. The census reflects that acreage in farmland has increased (78,516 in 2002 compared to 76,914 acres in 1997); however, this may be due to improved reporting techniques in the census. Agricultural land is important in the County not only due to the food products produced, but because of its cultural and ecological importance. The long-range benefits of agricultural land include wildlife habitat, flood control, scenic preservation and community character.
Currently over 60 jurisdictions in the state have a voluntary agricultural district ordinance, including the surrounding counties of Burke, Caldwell, Alexander, Iredell and Lincoln. When the authorizing legislation was approved by the State, a model ordinance was developed to assist counties in the preparation of a local ordinance. The model ordinance allows local governments flexibility in some of the criteria to establish agricultural districts, such as the minimum acreage requirements and composition of an Agricultural Advisory Board.
In early 2002, an informal committee of interested farmers and others involved in farming interests in Catawba County was convened to review the State’s model ordinance and identify areas to make applicable to the county. The committee met regularly during the year and prepared a draft ordinance. The ordinance was then presented to the Farm Bureau and Cattlemen’s Association in the fall of 2002, and both endorsed the program. The draft ordinance was further refined and presented to the Planning Board in 2005, which recommended the ordinance to the Board of Commissioners. The Board of Commissioners voted in June 2005 to not adopt a voluntary agricultural district ordinance due to two main issues of concern: (1) removal of a public hearing provision for condemnation and (2) the applicability of the ordinance in the municipalities’ jurisdictions. State legislation approved in September 2005 did not address the condemnation issue; however, it did provide legislative authority for municipalities to adopt a voluntary agricultural district ordinance. The law also created a provision for “enhanced voluntary agricultural districts” which provides additional benefits for landowners willing to sign a 10-year irrevocable conservation agreement as part of the requirements for participation in the program. On January 28, 2008, County staff attended a Catawba County Farm Bureau meeting to resume discussions regarding a voluntary agricultural district ordinance. At the meeting, farmers indicated their strong support for a program; however, they still had concerns over issues expressed in 2005.
Staff met with representatives from the Farm Bureau and developed a workable solution to their concerns. With regard to the condemnation issue, staff would inform the proposed Agricultural Advisory Board of any County projects affecting voluntary agricultural district land at the time the project is approved for design by the Board of Commissioners. This will be more advantageous than the condemnation provision since the project can be adjusted in the initial design phase to have a lesser impact on farm land, based on input from the Advisory Board, rather than waiting until a final design and condemnation proceedings are being prepared. With regard to applying the ordinance to the cities’ jurisdiction, staff has encouraged the Farm Bureau to reach out to cities to evaluate such an ordinance within their jurisdictions.
The proposed ordinance is a free-standing ordinance and is not part of the County’s Zoning or Subdivision Regulations. The ordinance specifies that it applies to the unincorporated sections of the County and does not apply within the corporate limits or extraterritorial jurisdiction of any municipality. The Board of Commissioners would make appointments to the new Agricultural Advisory Board, which would be created to review and approve applications for agricultural districts and advise the Board of Commissioners on matters related to farming, such as the present-use program, alternative farmland preservation measures or agri-tourism opportunities.
Qualifications for a farm to be designated in a district include: a minimum of 5 acres for horticultural land, 10 acres for agricultural land, or 20 acres of forestland for individual tracts or combined acreage equal to the minimum thresholds when two tracts of land or more are located within one mile of each other; participation in or qualification for the farm present-use value taxation program; management in accordance with NRCS defined erosion-control practices if highly-erodible soils exist; and the farm must be the subject of a conservation agreement which prohibits non-farm uses for 10 years. Under this agreement, the farmer is allowed to create up to 3 new lots which meet the County’s zoning and subdivision regulations. If enrolled in the basic voluntary district program, this agreement can be revoked at the request of the landowner at any time; however, the property will then be removed from the district.
The ordinance has a provision for an enhanced district in compliance with 2005 North Carolina General Statutes which requires that the landowner choose whether to participate in the voluntary district or enhanced district. If a landowner chooses to participate in an enhanced district, the landowner would commit to a 10 year irrevocable conservation agreement in exchange for the following benefits: the farmer may receive up to 25% of gross sales from non-farm products and still be considered exempt from zoning as a “bona fide farm”, is eligible to receive a higher percentage of agricultural cost-share funds, and receives priority consideration for farm-related grants. If the landowner applies for an enhanced district, the 10 year conservation agreement is irrevocable. These standards, with exception of the minimum acreage requirement, are based on N.C. General Statutes and cannot be changed.
The administration of the agricultural district ordinance will be coordinated between Cooperative Extension and the County’s Planning Department. The program could begin in early 2009. Upon appointment of the Agricultural Advisory Board, that Board would meet to establish its by-laws and work with staff to develop administrative forms and signage. The Board will then announce when it will begin accepting applications for the agricultural districts. Public notice of the location of agricultural districts would be provided in the following ways: the County’s Geographic Information System (GIS) will note all properties within ½ mile of a designated district. Signs will be posted along the roadside of farms in a designated district. Maps will be prepared and updated showing locations of designated districts and the maps will be located in offices or agencies which involve real estate transactions or farming-related interests. As subdivision plats are recorded, it will be noted on the plat that the new lots are located within ½ mile of an agricultural district.
The Planning Board conducted a public hearing on the ordinance at its September 29, 2008 meeting. Five persons spoke in support of the proposed ordinance, no one spoke in opposition. The Planning Board voted 8-0 to recommend approval of the ordinance to the Board of Commissioners.
D. The Board will conduct a public hearing on a proposed set of amendments to the County’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). When the UDO was adopted on February 5, 2007, staff indicated it would reevaluate those standards which justified modifications, after practical application over the course of approximately one year. The proposed revisions to the UDO are based on staff recommendations, comments received from the Southeastern Area Chamber of Commerce, the Land Use Development Committee, developers and citizens. The proposed recommendations would remove several ambiguous terms and standards, provide clarity, afford more flexibility and options to the developer, streamline the review and approval process and allow alternative landscaping design based on environmental concerns. Amendments involve several subsections: Development Standards, Signs, Mixed Use Corridor, the 321-Economic Development District/Economic Development Overlay, Special Purpose Regulations and Miscellaneous. The recommendations include a statement of current regulations, followed by recommendations and a rationale statement.
A separate handout outlining all proposed changes is available at tonight’s meeting. The Planning Board conducted a public hearing on September 29, 2008 regarding these amendments to the UDO. No one spoke at the hearing.
A. The Board will consider accepting a grant in the amount of $19,691 from the US Department of Justice, State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAPP). The SCAAP is a formula based grant program that provides agencies with reimbursement for some of the costs associated with housing potential undocumented criminal aliens in local jail facilities. This grant is totally federally funded, so no local matching funds are required. Grant funds are based on individuals held in the Newton Detention Center and those held for Catawba County at the Burke/Catawba District Confinement Facility in Morganton during fiscal year 2006/2007. These funds may be used for correctional purposes only. Staff determined the best use of this grant would be for medical services in the jail. This expense is unpredictable during the year, as it depends on the inmates’ presented medical conditions. The need fluctuates as the population changes. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommended acceptance of this grant to supplement the medical services expense in the jail.
B. The Board will consider authorizing the sole source exception from formal bidding for purchase contracts, for the purchase of VisonMOBILE Software from VisionAIR for field based reporting and to aid in the dispatch of public safety personnel. Catawba County has been using VisionAIR products since March 1998, in the areas of computer-aided dispatch, records management, field based reporting, fire service management, GeoLynx mapping, and a jail management system. VisionAIR Mobile would enhance the County’s current investment by enabling the flow of information to and from units in the field. In addition to data and reports, it incorporates GPS tracking with Automated Vehicle Locating (AVL). Units would be dispatched on the basis of the closest available unit. Once dispatched, call information will be sent to a unit’s onboard computer with address and mapping directions for the incident. The County will benefit from this purchase by increased officer safety through GPS and AVL technologies, improved response times by using visual maps of the nearest public safety units, improved response times by sending information of dispatched calls to public safety units, more efficient delivery of information to Public Safety laptops from existing databases (warrants, criminal history, HAZMAT, etc.) and because officers will be able to enter reports directly from the field. VisionMOBILE is designed to fully enhance the systems the County currently uses and transform the County’s public safety divisions into a mobile platform. North Carolina General Statute 143-129 allows an exception from formal bidding for purchase contracts when performance or price competition for a product are not available; when a needed product is available from only one source; or when standardization or compatibility is the overriding consideration. VisionMOBILE is the only product that will fully integrate with the County’s current systems. The Finance & Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of this request.
C. The Board will consider approval of a proposed Catawba County Work First Plan for the 2010-2011 biennium for submission to the North Carolina Department of Human Resources. In 1996, Congress ended the national welfare program known as AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and crafted legislation to allow states to implement their own welfare programs. This federal devolution of authority enabled the North Carolina General Assembly to go even further with welfare reform. The legislature took the next step; allowing counties to compete for Electing County status – in essence offering a limited number of counties the opportunity to have greater control over local welfare policies, as well as greater control over available funding. On September 2, 2008, the Board voted to pursue “Electing County” status and appointed a committee to assist in the development of the County’s Work First Plan. The plan was available for public review and comments from September 22, 2008 to September 26, 2008. Copies of the plan were placed at the Catawba County JobLink Career Center, Department of Social Services and on the Social Services Web Page.
The philosophy of the Work First Plan incorporates quality values and organizational standards that reflect respect for the worth and dignity of every citizen. Catawba County’s plan includes long-term successful family and child well-being outcomes for the entire Work First population. The proposed plan is essentially the same plan that has been in place. “Electing County” status continues to be preferred for Catawba County because it allows greater flexibility in program administration and the possibility to be financially advantageous, though it is expected to be less advantageous than in past years. The County may change its designation at any time prior to April 1, 2009 and may wish to do so as new information becomes available. The Board’s Policy and Public Work Subcommittee recommended approval of the Work First Plan.
D. The Board will consider authorizing the Tax Administrator, on an individual basis, to allow extensions for listing personal property. If approved, the extensions will not be granted beyond April 15, 2009. Businesses and corporations whose business year ends on December 31 of each year, and some individuals, can have difficulty completing their listing abstracts by January 31 of each year because they are unable to calculate an inventory that is taken on December 31 and submit this figure to the Tax Administrator. North Carolina General Statute 105-307 allows the Board of Commissioners to grant individual extensions of time for the listing of personal property upon written request and for good cause shown. The request must be filed with the Tax Administrator no later than the end of the regular listing period, meaning a letter must be written and postmarked no later than January 31, 2009 and must provide the reason the extension is being requested.
In accordance with North Carolina General Statutes, the Board will consider the Fiscal Report and Settlement of 2007 taxes for the Fiscal Year extending from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. The report is expected to reflect that $73,413,813 in real estate and personal property tax (97.92%), and $5,797,157 in motor vehicle tax has been collected as of June 30, 2008, with $1,557,830 outstanding in real estate and personal property tax.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464