The West Lincoln Area Council, a group of western Lincoln County business owners and residents, is partnering with county planning officials to develop a comprehensive vision for the western end of the county.
Lincoln County Zoning Director Randy Hawkins, Lincoln County Planning and Inspections Director Andrew Bryant and Code Enforcement Officer Jeremiah Combs attended a Tuesday night meeting of the group at WoodMill Winery in Vale, along with Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce President Ken Kindley. The Chamber of Commerce assisted in starting the group in March.
“It’s gotten more difficult to start a new business or to expand a business with all of the regulations that have been adopted through the last eight years,” said Sam Houser, of Houser Transportation. “The point of this committee is to have one voice, so we meet on a monthly basis and review policy and different things we think will not only improve the quality of life in west Lincoln County, but will help our own businesses.”
According to Sam Houser, one of the first things the council did was hold a Candidates Forum for the current Board of Commissioners candidates.
“To get some changes, you need to have some different ideas than the ones we’ve had from the past board, so I think that really helped,” Houser said.
Since its initial meeting in March, the council has spent its meetings reviewing the county Unified Development Ordinance’s Building Design, which its members believe has impacted the growth and development of the county’s western end. The Planning and Inspections Department has assisted the council by researching the building design requirements from neighboring counties, such as Catawba, Cleveland and Gaston Counties.
“What we’ve found is that Lincoln County is the least developed but has the most stringent restrictions (on building design),” said Larry Cagle, of WoodMill Winery.
“Our county’s guidelines are even more restrictive than the city of Lincolnton’s (guidelines). We’re not trying to remove the hard work that was put into the UDO. We just want the building design requirements to be lowered to a reasonable amount to encourage future growth in our community.”
According to research completed by Hawkins, Bryant and Combs, Cleveland County currently has no requirements for building design, road buffers, parking lot landscaping, foundation plantings and connectivity.
Currently, Lincoln County’s General Development Standards, applicable countywide, are the following:
“Road façade must be masonry, hardiplank or similar material, or wood, with at least 10 percent glass. Same material must be used on any side or rear wall if it faces a parking area or if it is within 100 feet of a residential zoning district. Corrugated metal may be used on a façade that is not visible from a public road. Blank walls on facades facing a public road can extend a maximum of 15 (feet) in the vertical direction or 40 feet in the horizontal direction. Service bay doors cannot be oriented toward the road or any residential use unless they are screened from view.”
According to the county’s website, www.lincolncounty.org, Lincoln County’s Unified Development Ordinance was made effective August 31, 2009, and it was last amended January 13, 2014.
In Gaston County, building design restrictions apply only in the Urban Standards Overlay District, or relatively large areas of the county that are expected to have public utilities within 15 years.
In Catawba County, the building design restrictions apply only to In Mixed Use Corridor Overlay District, or certain highways or intersections. One of the most noticeable differences between those requirements and those of Lincoln County is the materials permitted for businesses. Not only are more materials permitted for the construction of roofs and facades, but the documents give businesses the option to choose three requirements out of a list for appropriate customer entrances.
“(Catawba County’s) Building Design regulations are a lot more permissive, rather than restrictive,” Bryant said.
“We want the building design to encourage small businesses and not restrict them to the point where they can’t grow,” Cagle said.
Cagle added that the WLAC believes these changes would benefit not only the West Lincoln area, but all rural areas in the county.
“We’re restricting the small guy from ever getting a start,” Cagle explained. “We have to encourage you to build.”
“There’s going to be future growth, and this group wants to help design it a little bit and make it easier for businesses to open up,”Kindley said. “They have opinions on what’s needed in West Lincoln. These are West Lincoln business people. We have an East Lincoln Area Council, and they deal strictly with East Lincoln things, and we hope to have the (two councils) meet at an appropriate time.”
“We’re laying the groundwork as to how we want West Lincoln to develop,” Jamie Houser said. “The West Lincoln area is still farmland overall, but we have at least two main corridors: Highway 27 and Reepsville Road. I think both are very well traveled. There’s a great sense of community in West Lincoln coming together and wanting what’s best for our area.”
Members of the council include representatives of Eaker’s Nursery, Carolina Trust Bank, Tarheel Concrete, West Lincoln Veterinary Hospital, Reepsville General Store, Peoples Bank, Helms Christmas Tree Farm, Turner Houser Insurance Group, Houser Transportation, WoodMill Winery, First Federal Savings Bank, the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and Carolina Trust Bank.
The West Lincoln Area Council plans to present its proposal to the Lincoln County Planning Board at the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners’ joint meeting Nov. 3. For more information about Lincoln County’s Unified Development Ordinance, visit www.lincolncounty.org and search for “unified development ordinance.”