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Commissioners establish new Lincoln County density parameters

Staff Writer

A 3-2 vote cast during Monday evening’s Lincoln County Board of Commissioners meeting established new density parameters for future residential developments in the county.

The vote approved an amendment to the Lincoln County Land Use Plan allowing densities of up to two dwelling units per acre. In areas with public water and sewer, densities greater than two units per acre can be achieved through conservation and/or improvement of additional open space within the development.

Following a zoning hearing conducted earlier this month, the planning board voted 6-1 to recommend permitting densities of up to three units per acre, depending on the provision of utilities, rather than two.

“I live in a place where the density is two per acre and I can’t imagine it getting any further crowded than that,” Commissioner Rich Permenter said. “I’d also like to say that if we start with three, we have no bargaining chips whatsoever for anything. The county will not benefit in any way, shape or form from this and the part of the county that will be harmed the most will be the eastern part. Starting at three units per acre will hurt the eastern part of the county and I will not support that.”

Commissioner Anita McCall, who voted against the amendment passed on Monday night, expressed the desire to proceed with the recommendation from the planning board.

“I think it’s imperative that we go with our recommendation from the planning board,” McCall said. “From an engineering standpoint, we do not want to set Lincoln County aside from how it’s done in other areas. I’ve had meetings with a number of my constituents from West Lincoln, East Lincoln and downtown who would prefer for us to remain united as a county at three units per acre. This has been looked at over and over by staff and has been reviewed fully by our planning board, and I think it’s in our best interest as a board if we approve it in the way that our staff has recommended.”

Commissioner Martin Oakes argued that allowing a density of three units per acre would create the same overcrowding problems facing the city of Mooresville.

“Voting for three units per acre is a vote to make us look like Mooresville and we don’t have any roads,” Oakes said. “We have lots of plans for roads, but nobody has seen any bulldozers in East Lincoln to build a road in seven or eight years…Three units per acre would only affect the parts of the county that have sewer. The rest of the county doesn’t get affected by this, they’re down at 1-2 units per acre, and specifically in West Lincoln you can’t even get above 1.5 per acre because of the watershed. So for people who live out in that area where it can never get crowded to decide that East Lincoln should be looking like Mooresville is not fair for the people of East Lincoln.”

Commission chairman Bill Beam, who also voted in opposition of the approved amendment, suggested an overlay district that would create a special provision for density in East Lincoln.

“I would like to interject that I believe we truly in fact do have an overlay district simply by policy,” county planning director Andrew Bryant said. “Public sewer is only available in certain parts of the county and that certain part of the county is the only place where you can achieve these greater densities. It’s not a zoning overlay district, but as the geography is defined by an area with water and sewer availability, the rules are a little bit different in those areas.”

In other county business, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rezoning of 58.5 acres on the west side of Saint James Church Road and north side of Verdict Ridge Drive to permit a subdivision with up to 152 single-family detached homes. The development, to be known as Canopy Creek, will be age-targeted with single-story ranch-style floor plans ranging from 1,700-2,150 square feet.

The commissioners also voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the Lincoln County Unified Development Ordinance that makes elementary and secondary schools a conditional use in the general business and neighborhood business districts. Red Apple Development, LLC, a national developer of charter school facilities, is in the process of acquiring land for the construction of West Lake Preparatory Academy.

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners will meet again on June 5 at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of the James W. Warren Citizens Center, located at 115 West Main Street in Lincolnton.

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