Stanly commissioners deny rezoning requests; subdivisions remain unchanged

Published 1:54 pm Monday, June 13, 2022

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Two rezoning requests denied at a recent meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners will not prevent developments from being constructed at their respective sites in the county.

Stanly commissioners denied a request for a conditional rezoning request for two lots in the Millingport area off Old Concord Road.

Bob Remsburg, the county’s planning director, brought the request before commissioners after the zoning board voted 6-0 recommending a denial of the request at its meeting May 11.

The request by Anthony Giordano on behalf of land owner Harold Stafford, according to Remsburg, was made to subdivide two lots totaling 63.68 acres into eight lots of between seven and nine acres each.

According to notes from the planning board meeting included in commissioners’ agenda packet, Giordano “indicated that he plans to construct homes in the $750,000 to $1 million range. Numerous members of the community were present. They expressed concern about farmland preservation, a long gravel road with a maintenance agreement, potential nuisance complaints from new residents concerning farming operations in the area, dangerous intersections and curves and the risk of eight new wells causing dry wells on nearby properties.”

Remsburg said Giordano came to him with the request for an easement several months ago, to which he said, “we can’t quite do this because an easement can only serve four lots.” He added he encouraged Giordano to create 10 acre lots “because state statute says 10 acres or more is not a subdivision of property. So our subdivision goes totally out the window if you grate 10-acre lots or more.”

Giordano spoke for the project at the public hearing, saying he owns several businesses in Stanly and has “two active farms.”

He said the design “by right is ugly. I don’t like and I don’t think the neighbors like it. We’re trying to preserve the look of the field.”

According to Giordano, less that 20 acres of the plots are being farmed.

“These eight houses are going in regardless of (whether) this is approved or denied,” Giordano said. “I’d hope that you will approve it because having four driveways come into an access road just looks ugly.”

He added the road will have pipes to support fire apparatuses in case of a fire, as well as water access with streams near the land.

Chairman Tommy Jordan asked about the gravel road and a shared maintenance agreement, which he said was “unusual for something like this.”

Giordano said there is “a shared burden for everyone that has access to this road.”

Commissioner Bill Lahwon, quoting Remsburg, said “if the road were built to DOT specs and approvals, paved, you wouldn’t be in here.” Remsburg said that was correct.

Lawhon added, “Don’t you think your lots would be more marketable if it were a paved road versus a gravel road?”

“Yeah, that also costs a lot more money, though,” Giodarno said. “It’s 3,600 feet of road…I’m sure the people who live there would love a paved driveway. So would I, if I lived on that.”

He said he could recoup the costs if a 60-home subdivision went in, but that he was “doing estate lots to preserve the look of the land.”

Speaking against was Gary Hatley, president of the Stanly County Farm Bureau. He said his land is adjacent to the western edge of the property.

Hatley said the back third of the easement is on his land, and the land is steep, saying rainwater would flow onto his land. He also said the fans in his grain bins, which sometimes run 24 hours a day, are about 100 feet from Lot No. 1.

Laura Hatley, Gary’s wife, said she was concerned about her well if eight homes with wells and septic tanks were constructed.

“Mr. Remsberg has informed me that we will never get county water at our house,” she said. “If my well runs dry, there are going to be ramifications because we have no way to get water.”

She added, “it’s not fair to us to someone who has no vested interest in my community to come in here or on Millingport Road, and build and build.”

In the hearing, Jordan said the board only had the authority to determine whether residents around the properties “looked at four driveways or just one.”

Stanly County School Board member Anthony Graves spoke at the hearing, asking what role the planning board plays in situations like this. Jordan said it is “an advisory board to us. This board has to make the decision.”

Commissioner Scott Efird moved to deny the request, seconded by Commissioner Lane Furr. It passed unanimously.

The second request came from Burleson Development Group for a subdivision on Millingport Road in New London located next to the water tower and close to the volunteer fire department building.

“The only reason to have to change to R20 is to allow the average lot width to be reduced. This would allow Burleson Development to put 16 lots with frontage on Millingport Road. Without the change, [they] can still put 16 lots, but four would not have frontage on Millingport Road,” Remsburg said.

He said the R20 minimum average lot width is 80 feet, while 100 feet is the minimum for RA zones. The lots would exceed 30,000 square feet.

Remsburg said if the property was not rezoned, manufactured homes could be used if there were no deed restrictions.

During the public hearing, Dana Eudy spoke against the development, saying the original owner, Odell Almond, had covenants placed on the land going through 2029 which prevented subdivided lots and required single-family homes “of masonry construction.”

At the planning meeting, Eudy said Burleson had those covenants dissolved and planned to build 3,500- to 4,000 square-foot homes costing $350,000 to $450,000.

Referring to commissioners, Eudy said, “Y’all are really the only thing holding back these predatory developers from coming in and paying huge amounts (for) land that the average citizen or farmer can not afford.”

Linda Moua, a second-grade teacher at Central Elementary and Eudy’s neighbor, said she moved out of a subdivision because her family hated it.

“I would suggest less than 16 houses,” Moua said.

“I would like for you to think long-term to preserve farm land as best you can,” Ronnie Burleson added. “I know he’s got to make his living, but that doesn’t mean he has to ruin all the farmland that’s available.”

Joseph Burleson, the developer, spoke in the public hearing. He said the property was subdivided in 1990 and “was destined, at that point in time to have homes built on it.”

Noting the land was in a growth area in the county’s land-use plan since 2010, Burleson said the property has water and sewer access. With a Dollar General and a convenience store near the property, he said, “it points in the direction for me of development.”

Burleson said he previously brought a different property before the board and noted Lawhon wanted the lot size to stay 30,000 square feet.

“I brought this plan to you..all the lots are above 30,000 feet,” he said.

With concerns about septic systems, Burleson said the homes “will add customers to the county utility. That line that is out there needs flow.”

He said the property “was taken out of (being) farm land before I purchased it. The sellers … had already taken it out of farmland to sell the property.”

Commissioner Lane Furr asked Burleson how close together the houses would be, asking about if a fire broke out in a house which was between two others. Burleson said with the setbacks, 24 feet apart “would be the closest.”

Burleson said his company builds homes, but also farms.

“I would dare to say there are probably only a few farmers in the back of this room that own more property than we do,” Burleson said. “We have multiple farms. I understand change is difficult to deal with. Homes are needed.”

Tracy Thompson shared Millingport School had 194 students and a 13-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. Millingport’s fifth grade is now at North Stanly, noting potential infrastructure problems with a new development. She also said Stanly agriculture “is vital for the community.”

Phil Burr, responding to a previous speaker’s comments, spoke in support of Joseph Burleson, saying “he has done so much more for Stanly County.” Speaking to commissioners directly, he added, “you all know Joesph. He cares a lot for Stanly County.”

Lahwon asked about the setbacks, saying “it won’t leave a very wide path for a house.” He then moved to deny the request, which was seconded by Commissioner Peter Asciutto. The motion passed 7-0.

In an interview later, Jordan added comments regarding the board’s decisions.

“The solution to protecting our farmland in Stanly County is a community one, not a legislative one. This week was a great example of that in action,” Jordan said. “The people that didn’t want these subdivisions got the support they asked for from the commissioners, but that support didn’t stop the problem. In the end, it made it worse. Subdivisions will likely still proceed, but they won’t have the restrictions they would have if they had been approved. It was a symbolic gesture that will probably result in the opposite effect for the people of Stanly’s desire for their farmland. At the end of the day, the board can’t prevent a farmer from selling RA land and they can’t prevent someone from putting houses on it.”

He added, “I sincerely wish there was a local government method to prevent the wholesale destruction of agricultural land in Stanly County, but there isn’t. If there was, it would incite just as much passion the moment someone tried to build a residence on their farmland and the board denied their request. This is a community problem, not a government one.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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