Stanly commissioners split on vote for new rural minimum lot size

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, September 6, 2023

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The Stanly County Board of Commissioners set a new minimum lot size for properties zoned residential/agricultural (RA) which are in the county land use plan’s designated rural areas.

By a vote of 4-3, commissioners approved a three-acre minimum lot size for parcels zoned RA in the rural preservation areas.

Chairman Scott Efird and commissioners Peter Asciutto, Trent Hatley and Bill Lawhon voted for the motion, while vice chairman Mike Barbee and commissioners Patty Crump and Brandon King voted against it.

Lawhon made the motion, stating first, according to the Stanly County GIS website, 74 residential units have been constructed in the rural preservation areas on parcels less than one acre. Most of those, he added, were in the Garmon Mill subdivision in Stanfield.

“The way we start out hoping to slow down these developers is to get a larger tract than .92, but I hear in here tonight, we need to work on our residential ordinances,” Lawhon said. “We need to tighten them up, and if there is a developer that is doing something that is not supposed to be done, as a commissioner, I’m telling our county manager and zoning manager, you better get them straightened out and better make them do what is required.”

At last month’s meeting, the board tabled a decision to make the minimum lot size five acres. Lawhon said five acres “is a little too much. I think we should do at least a three-acre tract.”

Making that in a motion, Lawhon also said the minimum lot size for a family subdivision should be 60,000 square feet. A family subdivision is an exception in the ordinance, allowing lots to be divided for immediate family members. If families choose to use this exception, the newly divided properties may not be sold for a minimum of three years.

His motion also included 25-foot side setbacks on lots, meaning the closest two houses could come to each other in the RA zoned plots in the rural district would be 50 feet.

“If we see that’s not working, guess what? We can bring it back up again,” Lawhon said.

Asciutto seconded the motion, saying commissioners questioned some developments coming in two years ago.

“We’ve worked on a bunch of stuff to get where we are at today,” he said.

He used the example of the parking lot and building of Stanly Commons, which he said was 13 acres total.

“If you went to five acres, you could only put two houses on this entire property … if you went to two acres, you could put six houses on here. There’s still a lot of land for people to farm and do stuff,” Asciutto said.

Reacting to dissent from many of the citizens who filled the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room Tuesday night, Efird asked people “to be respectful for your time. We listened to everyone that spoke, and we actually gave the opportunity for anyone to speak.”

Discussing the motion for three acres, Barbee said he had a copy of the 2002 land use plan, which he said stated Stanly “had Charlotte sprawl coming … we need to start looking after our rural preservation lands and we needed to direct the building towards our municipalities.”

“By the time the planning board and the commissioners got through with it, the three acres presenting dropped down to 30,000 square feet,” Barbee said of the previous plan.

He said the aforementioned sprawl was not directed towards the cities in Stanly. He said if he voted for less than five acres he “would be letting the public down.”

Crump asked people to imagine losing farmland to hypothetically bulldozing down the newly built Charlotte Pipe and Foundry for a housing development.

“All that work you’ve done … it’s hard to imagine doing something like that because you can see the factory. You can see the industry,” Crump said. “Our farmland is our number one industry in Stanly County.”

Crump said she felt like “we’ve got to do something that is aggressive right now to make sure that we’re saving (farmland). We can always dial it back. It’s going to be hard to go forward.”

After the meeting, Kelly Hart, who was the citizen representative on the steering committee for the 2040 Stanly County Land use Plan, reacted to the board’s decision.

“I’m very disappointed in (the commissioners),” Hart said, noting the planning board twice approved it and commissioners previously approved the land use plan.

“We’ve been working on this for now almost two years. (Commissioners) have had all that two years to bring up any questions they had, any doubts they had about it, and they failed to do that.”

Hart said commissioners said yes to the plan but ultimately “were influenced by other people to change it at the last minute. They didn’t have the nerve to make it what the community wanted as a whole.”

Hannah Lear, who spoke during the public hearing, said “we’re moving in the right direction. I’m still very disappointed because there have been commissioners who have basically lied and said they were going to vote for the five acres and they voted for the three. That puts accountability back on us because we voted for them.”

“It’s not just the developments we’re wanting to stop,” Lear added. “It’s holding these developers accountable. There are crooked developers out here that are not being held up to the right standards. They are not doing what they are saying they’re going to do, and we have to hold them accountable.’

People spoke at a public hearing regarding the five-acre minimum lot size for an hour and 45 minutes, including a 10-minute recess.

Many speakers in the hearing were in favor of the five-acre minimum. Their stated reasons included the strain the extra residents would put on the county’s infrastructure, schools and fire protection, along with concerns regarding increased crime.

Some citizens spoke against the five-acre minimum, including Dakeita Vanderburg, who said she represented the Central Carolina Association of Realtors. According to its website, the association covers Stanly, Cabarrus and Montgomery counties.

Calling herself a conservative, Vanderburg said she was “concerned about the overreach of a government entity taking away the rights of the citizens of Stanly County to do with their land.”

She also said Stanly has an affordable housing shortage.

Vanderburg said the five-acre minimum “means those seeking the American dream will have to go somewhere else. Many cannot afford five acres to build their dream house on.”

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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