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Planning board approves Cline Farm project

A 286-acre planned district that will incorporate residential, commercial and rural elements won initial approval Monday night from the Planning Board.
Commissioners have the final say on the application from developer Larry Clark, which could create the first major subdivision of its kind in western Lincoln County.
“This is one of the best planned districts we’ve seen,” said Randy Hawkins, the county’s zoning administrator. “It’s environmentally sensitive and aesthetically sensitive.”
Clark wants to develop a planned mixed use district known as Cline Farm on 286 acres off Reepsville Road about one mile north of Lincolnton city limits.
The development will offer estate lots, village lots and condominiums. A commercial area will likely include businesses like hair salons and dry cleaners. And Clark wants to maintain the rural feeling of the area, which has long been rolling farmland, by including open space, enhancing and preserving wetlands and maintaining some of the original structures on the land.
It’s a plan on which county staff members have worked with the developer closely. Hawkins said the development would be an asset to Lincoln County.
“This is not your typical subdivision where a developer tries to carve out as many lots as he can,” Hawkins said.
During a public hearing on the application, some residents said they were concerned that the quiet, country setting they’ve grown accustomed to would change with all the growth.
Lewis Helms moved to the area from Charlotte.
“We’re moving out of the city. I didn’t know I was bringing it with me,” he said, pointing to the lack of street lights and gunfire in the rural setting. “It’s nice just to sit in a lounge chair and listen.”
They also questioned whether it’d be better to simply auction off the land in 10- to 20-acre tracts.
But county officials said that could lead to even higher density because of the property’s current zoning, which calls for a three-quarter acre minimum lot size. That could mean more than 400 homes, Hawkins said.
“It could be a lot, lot worse than this,” said Commissioner Carrol Mitchem.
Gary McConnnell, whose wife is one of the Cline sisters, said the family chose to develop the property so they could maintain control of what happens there. Though the family’s history of farming the land has ended, they still want to maintain and keep the rural feel of the area, he said.
“They would like to honor the heritage of their parents and grandparents by honoring the rural heritage of that land,” McConnell said.
Plans include keeping about 44 percent of the land as common open space, well above the county’s 12 percent requirement. There will be trails, picnic areas, ballfields and a recreational center. The creeks, meadows and wetlands will be preserved.
“When you drive up Reepsville Road, you still get the … feeling that you’re driving through the country,” McConnell said.
Steve Killian, an adjacent property owner, said the development would set a positive tone for the community.
“As much as I wish nothing in this world would change except to suit me, I know it’s not possible,” he said. “It is the best thing for our end of the county.”
Commissioners were concerned about the proposed voluntary school contribution and the traffic effect on Reepsville Road. Commissioner Tom Anderson said the traffic study should include the intersections of Grove Street (which turns into Reepsville) and West Main, Pine and Sycamore streets.
“We really ought to have some sense of what this thing is going to do (to those intersections),” Anderson said.
The Planning Board voted 6-0, with member Jerry Geymont abstaining, to approve the application without any conditions.
The Board of Commissioners could make its decision May 17.
In other business, the Planning Board voted 5-2 to recommend denial of a rezoning application from Bobby Poole. Poole wants to rezone .52 acres from Transitional Residential to Conditional Use Neighborhood Business to permit an auto sales lot.
Some neighboring property owners opposed the rezoning, saying they were concerned about traffic and the effect on their property values.
Planning Board members Darrell Harkey and Harold Howard Jr. voted against the motion to deny.
Commissioners could also vote on this issue May 17.by Alice Smith

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