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County delays action on 500-acre plan

Board divided over granting requests for sweepstakes centers

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners decided to delay taking action on the proposed Woodcock Farms small-area plan Monday night after nearby residents spoke out angrily against it at last week’s meeting.
As the Times-News previously reported, the long-range plan calls for the eventual development of roughly 500 acres of land, located between Sifford Road and the Gaston County line along both sides of the N.C. 16 bypass, into a business park, an industrial park, a commercial node, open-space areas and a park.
Lincoln County Principal Planner Randy Williams stressed last Monday that developers were not about to start turning dirt on the project. He instead described it as a means of being proactive when it comes to future development.
Nonetheless, much discontent regarding the plan still appeared to exist among residents surrounding the subject property, despite two public-input sessions that were previously conducted. Discussion centered on access points, potential traffic flow and exactly what land would be encompassed in the plan.
Commissioners expressed their concern over how much unnecessary confusion was created during the process, especially considering that the proposed project, if approved, could be as much as 20 years away.
Commissioner Carl Robinson also found fault with the plan’s inclusion of land not owned by the primary property owner, Crescent Resources.
Taking into account those complaints and other comments from last week’s public hearing, Williams presented an updated and revised plan to commissioners Monday night that included only land owned by Crescent.
Though the Planning Board had voted unanimously to recommend approval of the small-area plan at its Sept. 10 meeting, commissioners requested that nearby property owners first be contacted face-to-face by planning staff before they take a vote on it, in order to fully explain the proposal.
Robinson noted that, in the future, it would likely “be smoother sailing” if all nearby residents were met with prior to the public meetings.
Planning Director Kelly Atkins said the process, which was the staff’s first attempt at a small-area plan, has been a learning experience and stressed that they would do some things differently in the future.
Commissioners are set to take up the issue, now tabled, again during their Oct. 15 meeting.
Also at Monday’s meeting, commissioners were divided over conditional-use permit requests for Internet sweepstakes centers, approving one while rejecting another in split votes.
In a vote of 3-2, with Commissioner Jim Klein and Chairman Alex Patton in opposition, the board approved the operation of a center in the WestPointe Shoppes Center on N. N.C. 16 in Denver.
Meanwhile, a request from Troy Motz to operate one on Old N.C. 150 in Crouse was denied in a vote of 4-1, with Commissioner Carrol Mitchem dissenting.
Commissioners cited the Crouse location’s proximity to a residential area in rejecting the request. Nearby residents had spoken out against the proposed center at last week’s meeting.
In other board action at Monday’s meeting:

  • Commissioners rejected applying for an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant. Commissioner Klein said the program provides a service that should be done by buyers and sellers.
  • Commissioners unanimously approved local landmark designations for both the Hopkins House on Pine Street in Lincolnton and the Graham Round Barn on Beth Haven Church Road in Catawba Springs Township.
  • Commissioners unanimously approved a software vendor for the Register of Deeds.
  • Commissioners unanimously approved executing an agreement on reservoir capacity with the Cleveland County Water District.
  • Commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Mitchem in opposition, to appoint Jon Stephens, the county’s chief appraiser, as the interim tax administrator. County Manager George Wood told commissioners the process has begun to find a permanent replacement for Madge Huffman, following her recent announcement of retirement. He also recommended they form a committee to run the search process, as the position requires appointment by the board.

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