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DECEMBER 16, 2013

AGENDA
Catawba County Board of Commissioners Meeting
Monday, December 16, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room, 1924 Courthouse
30 North College Avenue, Newton, NC

1. Call to Order

2. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag

3. Invocation

4. Approval of the minutes from the Regular Meeting and Closed Session Meeting of December 2, 2013

5. Recognition of Special Guests

6. Public Comment for Items Not on the Agenda

7. Public Hearings:


a. Rezoning Request by Jayme Freitas to Rezone 1.0 Acre from Planned Development to HC Highway Commercial District. Presented by Planner Chris Timberlake.

b. Rezoning Request by Strata Solar, LLC to Rezone Approximately 31 Acres from R-20 Residential to R-80-CD Conditional District, Specifically for a Solar Farm. Presented by Planner Chris Timberlake.

8. Appointments

9. Departmental Report:

Library

Innovative Library Outreach Programs Focus on Bridging the Gaps: Partnering in the Community for Early and Lifelong Learning. Presented by Library Director Suzanne White.

10. Other Items of Business

11. Attorneys’ Report

12. Manager’s Report

13. Adjournment

PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES: Individuals needing assistance should contact the County Clerk at 828-465-8990 within a reasonable time prior to the meeting. Access to the 1924 Courthouse for individuals with disabilities is at the south side (“A” Street). The elevator is located at the north end of the building. Participation in public meetings is without regard to race, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, color, or disability.

INFOTALK/INTERNET: The Catawba County Telephone Information System will allow you to use your touch tone telephone to obtain current information on Catawba County 24 hours a day. Information is updated on a regular basis. Dial 465-8468 and INFOTALK will direct your questions with easy to understand instructions. Reach Catawba County on the Internet at http://www.catawbacountync.gov.

CALENDAR: County Offices will be closed on December 24, 25, and 26 for the Christmas Holiday and on January 1, 2014 for the New Year Holiday. There will be only one Board of Commissioners Meeting in January 2014. Due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday on Monday, January 20, 2014, this meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.

 

PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
MONDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2013, 7 P.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, N.C.


The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will hold public hearings on 1) a request by Jaime Freitas to rezone approximately one acre at 4723 Mountain Creek Road from the PD Planned Development to the HC Highway Commercial District, and 2) a request by Strata Solar to rezone approximately 31 acres of a 158 acre parcel at 2819 Sigmon Dairy Road from R-20 Residential to the R-80 CD Conditional District, when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, December 16, 2013, at the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board will also receive a report on innovative programs of the Catawba County Library designed to “bridge gaps” by partnering with the community on early and lifelong learning programs and opportunities.

PUBLIC HEARINGS
A. The Board will hold a public hearing to receive citizen comments and consider an application by Jaime Freitas to rezone 1.0 acre located at 4723 Mountain Creek Avenue in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning District from the PD Planned Development to the HC Highway Commercial district. The PD Planned Development district encourages the master planning of large scale, multiple or mixed use development patterns. The HC Highway Commercial district provides for regional highway-oriented businesses, offices, services and civic uses.

The applicant’s property is zoned PD Planned Development and is the location of Just Suspension, a specialty auto parts business. Parcels to the north and west are zoned HC Highway Commercial and undeveloped. Parcels to the south and east are zoned PD Planned Development, with the eastern parcels developed and the southern parcel undeveloped.

Applicants who propose a planned development usually have more opportunity for flexibility and creativity in design than is possible under conventional zoning regulations. However, there are some uses (such as motor vehicle repair, motor vehicle sales) that are permitted in the HC district that are not permitted in the PD district. The property is within the Mixed Use Corridor-Overlay district which requires additional aesthetic standards such as allowing certain exterior materials, providing pedestrian friendly improvements, and requiring additional standards to some uses. In general, the overlay district provides for higher development standards along certain corridors in the county.

Public sewer is anticipated to be available along Highway 150 East in April 2014. The property is currently served by a private septic system and public water. The existing septic system accommodates the current use but may be subject to expansion depending on whether additional businesses occupy portions of the building. Under this scenario, the County’s Sewer Ordinance would not require connection to the future public sewer line.

Highway 150 East is designated as a boulevard in the 2035 Greater Hickory Urban Area Long Range Transportation Plan. This road, listed as a strategic highway corridor, is a major east-west route between Shelby, Lincolnton, and Mooresville and is recommended to be widened from two lanes to multi (four) lanes. The State Transportation Improvement Plan contains plans for the widening of Highway 150 East to a multi-lane facility. The planning and design portion of the project is currently on-going and should be completed in 2014. It is anticipated that right-of-way acquisition will begin in 2017 and construction could start after 2020. Traffic counts for Highway 150 East in 2011 measured 9,800 to the west of the site and 11,000 to the east. Based on design and construction, the road capacity in this area is 14,200 according to the Catawba County Thoroughfare Plan. Development of the property will not overburden the existing roadway.

The Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan serves as the current land use plan for this area. The property is located in an area designated for a regional commercial center, which are envisioned to provide a mixture of uses such as commercial, office-institutional, and multi-family. The requested HC Highway Commercial district accommodates uses that are consistent with the types of uses recommended in the plan.

Staff has recommended the 1.0 acre parcel be rezoned from PD Planned Development to HC Highway Commercial based on the request being consistent with the adopted Small Area Plan; the request being in harmony with the adjacent commercial land uses; and the property being adjacent to and near other HC Highway Commercial properties.

The Planning Board held a public hearing on November 25, 2013. No one spoke in favor or in opposition to the request. There were no questions or comments from the Planning Board. The Planning Board voted 7-0 to submit a favorable recommendation to the Board of Commissioners to rezone the parcel totaling 1.00 acre from PD Planned Development to HC Highway Commercial based on the reasons set forth in the staff’s recommendation noted above.

B. The Board will hold a public hearing to receive citizen comments and consider an application by Strata Solar to rezone approximately 31 acres of a 158 acre tract located at 2819 Sigmon Dairy Road in the Startown Small Area Planning District from R-20 Residential to R-80-CD Conditional District, specifically for a solar farm. The current R-20 Residential district requires a minimum lot size of one half acre and is considered a high density “general use” district. Predominant uses in this district include single-family homes and agriculture, both of which are allowed by right. The R-80 Residential district requires a minimum lot size of two acres and is considered a low density “general use.” Predominant uses in this district include single-family homes and agriculture in a more rural surrounding, both of which are allowed by right. In contrast to uses allowed by right, conditional district zoning is based on a specific proposed use, such as the requested solar farm. In conditional zoning, the proposed use would be bound by a set of regulations and negotiated conditions specific to the request, accompanied by a site plan. If the proposed solar farm is approved, the base zoning district would be Residential 80 – Conditional District (R-80-CD).


The property for which the rezoning request is being considered is zoned R-20 Residential and is undeveloped and currently used for agricultural purposes. Strata Solar is proposing to lease 31 acres located in the northwest portion of the 158 acre tract to install and operate a 5 megawatt solar facility. Parcels to the north, south, east and west are all zoned R-20, with some containing single-family homes, some vacant and undeveloped or used for agricultural uses, and one being the location of a Federal Aviation Administration radio station.

The property on which the solar farm is proposed and the adjacent properties are located within the Doublewide Manufactured Home-Overlay (DWMH-O) district, which provides opportunities for installation/placement of doublewide manufactured homes. It is also located in the Floodplain Management-Overlay (FPM-O) district. Betts Branch runs along the western property line. According to the site plan submitted, the tract (approximately 28 acres of solar panels) would be developed according to development standards, found in Section 44-633 of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which were adopted by the Board of Commissioners on September 16, 2013.

Sigmon Dairy Road is designated as a local residential road in the Catawba County Thoroughfare Plan, generally designed and constructed to carry 8,000 to 10,000 vehicles per day depending on lane widths. Traffic counts taken in 2011 along Sigmon Dairy Road to the east of the site measured 670 average trips per day. Development of the property will not overburden the existing roadway or cause significant congestion issues during normal operations or construction.

The Startown Small Area Plan serves as the current land use plan for this area. The property is located in an area recommended for high density (1/2 acre minimum lot size) residential development. The density associated with this request is inconsistent with the density recommendations of the plan; however, this particular community is comprised predominantly of large acreage tracts accommodating agricultural and residential development, and the proposed use would be compatible with the existing development pattern in the area. Prior to recent amendments to the UDO, solar farms were classified as public service facilities allowed in all residential districts subject to a special use permit.

The Catawba County Planning Board held a public hearing on November 25, 2013. Three adjacent property owners addressed the board with questions about the proposal, including: will there be security on the site and adjacent properties during construction?;what will happen to the access road once construction is complete?;where will parking be during the development phase and will there be traffic issues?;what are the benefits of the solar farm to the County? and will there be a buffer established between the existing residences and the solar farm?

Lance Williams of Strata Solar addressed the Planning Board to respond to each of the issues as follows: on-site security would be available 24-7 during the construction phase, and the Sheriff’s Office would be notified of the construction; once construction is completed, temporary construction mats would be removed and the underlying areas as well as the access road will be reseeded allowing them to return to their natural appearance; all construction traffic would be contained on-site completely outside of the public right-of-way during the approximate 120 day construction cycle. Construction traffic would not create a traffic hazard; the solar farm would generate approximately $30,000 in tax revenue, and there would be a double row of evergreens around the north and east side of the solar farm. The plants would be at least five feet tall at the time of planting.


One Planning Board member commented that there would be some visibility of the solar arrays from Startown Road and Kings Grant Subdivision west of the site. Another comment was made by a Planning Board member concerning the need for preservation of farmland and preference for locating solar farms exclusively in existing industrial districts. The Planning Board voted 6-1 to recommend denial of this rezoning request based on the opinion that the solar farm would not be totally screened and invisible from all sides, and the opinion that solar farms should only be allowed in industrial districts, not on farmland.

Staff recommends that the 31 acres to be leased by Strata Solar be rezoned from R-20 Residential to R-80-CD Conditional District subject to the conditions listed and illustrated on the site plan, based on the relatively low density pattern of the surrounding neighborhood; consistent with density required in the R-80 district (80,000 square feet or two acres), combined with conditional zoning designating a solar farm as the exclusive use; the proposed development meeting the standards of Section 44-633 of the UDO as identified on the site plan; the topography of the site, existing vegetation and additional vegetation to be planted combined to offer natural buffering and minimal visibility of the site; and that the UDO allows for the consideration of solar farms as a permitted use in the R-80-CD Conditional District.

DEPARTMENTAL REPORTS

LIBRARY
The Board will receive a report on innovative programs of the Catawba County Library designed to “bridge gaps” by partnering with the community on early and lifelong learning programs and opportunities.

CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464