Albemarle City Council makes decision on 86-acre annexation

Published 5:18 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023

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By a 5-2 vote, Albemarle City Council voted to deny an annexation request for an 86-acre tract on City Lake Drive at its Sept. 5 meeting.

The vote brings to a close a lengthy process during which concerns were expressed from neighboring property owners regarding matters including stormwater management, buffers along property lines, wildlife protection and traffic volume should the annexation be approved.

Michael Sandy, representing the petitioners (Southern Terra) and the owners (E.H. King heirs), delivered a presentation addressing a number of concerns which had been expressed at the Aug. 21 council meeting, which resulted in the public hearing being continued to Sept. 5.

“We met with neighbors again after the Aug. 21 meeting to address their concerns,” said Sandy.

“What were their most common concerns?” asked Councilman Bill Aldridge.

“The neighbors are concerned that their housing structures are too close to the King property,” replied Sandy, “and they wanted a buffer … we can work with the King heirs by maybe selling some land or by creating a buffer in the site plan. They also are concerned about water quality and that can be addressed during development with stormwater retention.”

Sandy added that some of the concerns expressed by neighboring property owners were outside the scope of the annexation request.

“Issues of watersheds, traffic, subdivision regulations and the like are not issues of annexation and zoning,” he said.

Sandy also noted that the property falls within a “primary growth area” identified in the Stanly County Land Use Plan.

“What is a ‘primary growth area’?” asked Councilman Chris Bramlett.

“A lot of counties, especially rural ones, won’t get into parcel-by-parcel determination of future land use,” Sandy explained. “Utilities are a driving factor in land use, because septic issues and water issues limit use of land where utilities are not available. As a result, primary growth areas are identified along town borders since the towns can provide these services.”

Bramlett also expressed concern with setting a precedent.

“How would we ever approve another development of any kind if we set a precedent with this one?” he asked.

“Annexations are voluntary, and at the council’s discretion,” replied Mayor Ronnie Michael.

“Each annexation is taken uniquely,” added City Attorney Britt Burch.

At this point, Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall moved to deny the annexation petition, seconded by Aldridge.

Councilman Chris Whitley spoke to the issues of flooding which had been brought by neighboring property owners.

“I’m still not convinced that this would increase what the crux of the problem is,” he said. “I think it would improve (the situation) with retention ponds, but that gets into the site plan … I don’t think we should stop the growth the city has wanted for many years because of some issues that can probably be addressed.”

Bramlett asked if other zoning options would be available should the annexation take place.

“R-15 zoning is not tailored for this, but it could work,” replied Planning and Development Services Director Kevin Robinson, adding that although it is the lowest density zoning available, it would likely not reduce the number of units on the land.

“Since the developer is only using a relatively small portion of the land (about 50%, according to Sandy), “it may not significantly reduce the number of units,” Robinson said.

With a vote called on Hall’s motion, all council members except Bramlett and Whitley voted to deny the annexation request.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.