Strategic Master Plan moves to Troutman Council after Planning & Zoning Board approval
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Troutman Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved the town’s proposed Strategic Master Plan on Monday night, sending it on to the Town Council for final approval after a few revisions to reflect community input at the meeting.
The board approved the plan after making several amendments to the Land Use Plan section, including making the Gillon and other nearby properties in the Perry Road area originally designated in the October 16 SMP draft as rural residential to remain so.
The Byers, Murdock, and Mills properties along U.S. Highway 21, now zoned as either light or heavy industrial, were also amended to remain in that designation.
The proposed 366-home Colonial Crossing subdivision property, located between Talley and East Monbo Road, was also changed to a low-density area rather than than consultant Stantec’s recommended medium-density to reflect the already approved rezoning of the development.
Board member George Harris also asked for the legend on page 66 to be updated to make the symbols’ meaning clearer.
Scott Lane of the Stantec group presented the plan to board members, outlining the highlights of the plan that was constructed over the summer with input from a series of discovery phase public meetings, focus groups, website submissions, and an intensive four-day charrette in which experts took all the community feedback to create an initial plan draft.
Stantec took all the information and “provided details through focusing on a lot of strategy kind of recommendations. Our charge initially was to think about not so much about the high-level vision plan but also very specific steps that the town and partners could undertake to make those things happen.”
“The last six weeks really have been the process of reviewing and refining and fine-tuning those recommendations,” said Lane, who noted that public input was extensive and fantastic.
The report’s 50 recommendations cover things like transportation improvements, which will go into a future updated transportation plan. Other recommendation areas focus on town policy, land-use plans, design, and programs that will take the recommendations to actual execution.
A steering committee also met, along with town staff, to look at some of the information and concept designs and to update the population growth map and several land-use definitions. They also updated two pages of the future land-use plan.
The steering committee also looked at possibly expanding the proposed Lytton Street extension north to Orchard Lane and possibly continuing on to East Monbo Road to divert some local traffic from the Old Mountain Road and Main Street intersection.
The steering committee members also questioned whether some properties along Perry Road should be zoned medium-residential or rural-residential. Stantec recommended medium-residential for some continuity to adjacent parcels.
Lane reminded attendees that the Future Land Use map is not regulatory, though it does have some weight and influence on the direction of Town Council and Planning Board decisions when the staff must state whether a proposed action is consistent with the plan.
The 50 recommendations in the report were also assigned time lines of zero to two years (items with asterisks) and 3 to 5 years or longer (dash lines or arrows indicating ongoing or longer term projects) based on cost, resources, and ease of completion.
Several community members spoke about the proposed master plan, including Linda Gillon, who questioned a change in her 20-acre property’s designation from rural residential (RR) to medium density (MD) since the October Town Council meeting SMP draft presentation.
Town Planner Erika Martin, asked to clarify the designation after the meeting, told Gillon in an November 1 email that her property was in the RR area in the new land-use plan section.
However, Martin sent another email on November 19 notifying Gillon that her property was now not included in RR and instead would be designated medium-density.
“That was completely and totally a shock to me as I had put a lot of faith in the email and information that she had sent me on November 1,” said Gillon, who objected to the “miscommunication and information that is not being factual.”
Gillon asked the board to reconsider and leave her property as rural residential. “I am a bona fide farm. My property is in farm use with Iredell County. It’s been a farm a lot longer than a lot of these other properties, other than possibly the Perry property.”
Noting that she would have spoken at the October meeting if her property had been labeled medium density at that time, Gillon said, “I don’t feel like I have been given that opportunity.”
“I feel like until after that meeting, there was not a question as to my property remaining rural residential. Something happened or transpired after that that has prompted this change,” Gillon added.
Gillon was told that Perry Road was to be designated as a zoning dividing line.
“I understand that you gotta have a cut-off somewhere, and I’ve always been told that when you’ve got a problem, don’t come to the table without a resolution, so I’m suggesting that you take properties that are occupied, have been occupied, and use those as your diving line.”
“Anything that might be developed or unoccupied at this time, maybe that’s your cutoff for the medium density,” said Gillon.
Gillon’s neighbor, Allison Stroud, noted that the change would require only a simple line shift that reflects the will of those property owners. “Even if it makes sense from the strategic planning standpoint, just from someone on the outside looking in, you have property owners participating in the process and saying that’s really nice but we would like to scoot that line over 5 acres. That’s the whole point of having the public input.”
“Their opinions about their properties should be heavily weighted,” added Stroud.
Karen Davies, who was initially told she could not attend the November 14 steering committee meeting, called for more meeting openness, per government statute, and asked the board not to approve the plan, even though a lot of time, money and effort on the parts of many had been expended, because of her perception of its flaws.
“There are even more problems than I even have time to talk about with it,” said Davies.
“What started out as to be a collaboration, I think, between the citizens and the town has ended up into being one or two people with their pack of crayons changing things along the time during meetings that we were not allowed to attend,” said Davies.
Davies also noted that in the Future Land Use plan, the Byers property was changed to residential from industrial, which might hamper future business expansion. However, Martin noted that the property was already zoned industrial and should not be affected by the plan, which is not regulatory, only a planning direction.
Board Chair Layton Getsinger questioned the changes in the Gillon property designation.
Martin said that after the November master plan steering committee meeting, a few members who stayed after asked her why the land-use map did not match the earlier staff recommendations from October.
Martin contacted Stantec, asking whether the shape map she sent caused the change or if the change was intentional by Stanec. Lane indicated he and and his staff looked at it from a pure planning perspective and the potential of that area and made the change to medium density
Martin then told the board that “this process has had a lot public input, and I think that is really what you all are tasked with is looking at the value of the public comments and looking at how they do affect and shape the map.”
Getsinger understood the area was to be be medium density, to which Lane concurred. “Somewhere along the line it got changed to rural residential, and I don’t know where that change happened,” questioning whether it happened at Stantec or the town level. “It didn’t happen with the steering committee.”
Martin said the map had been rural residential when earlier presented as a draft to Town Council.
“I thought it had been intentionally designated as rural residential,” she explained, saying her first inkling of an issue came with the questions presented after the steering committee meeting. “I thought we were glad it was rural residential.”
Lane explained that Stantec was tasked with taking the current 2035 Future Land Use plan to the individual parcel level and that after initially being rural residential, Stantec intentionally changed these parcels to medium density after November 14 steering committee meeting conversations.
Though there was no real downside to changing it back to the RR designation, Lane pointed out Stantec’s rationale that the proximity to public utilities and to other MR areas made the change to MR sensible.
Board member Randy Farmer also expressed concern about the Byers and other industrial parcels in the Highway 21 area, and Karen Van Vliet expressed concerns about both the Byers property and the Gillon property along with her neighboring land owners.
“That was what was communicated out to Ms. Gillon,” said Van Vliet, “and if it was a mistake on the town’s part, then in good faith with neighbors, I feel like we need to honor what was shown to them at that last meeting that they went to and the communication that Erika had with them.
“I understand what Stantec is saying about the dividing line, but I think in this situation we want to keep a positive relationship with the homeowners and not change something that was communicated with them at one time.”
Martin also pointed out that the Strategic Master Plan's Land Use Plan designations will miss some small parcels, such ASTI off State Park Road which now is located in a lake use or low-density area. Farmer expressed concern about hurting business owners, but Getsinger noted there is a difference between classifying vacant land as industrial as opposed to land already used as industrial.
After some wrangling about wording and getting the motion correct, board member Jeff Taylor’s amendments to the land use plan section were unanimously approved, followed by another unanimous vote to recommend the entire Strategic Master Plan for Town Council approval.
The Town Council is expected to consider approving the Strategic Master Plan at the regular meeting on Thursday, December 13, at 7 p.m.
DECEMBER BOARD MEETING CHANGE
Because of the upcoming holidays, the December Planning and Zoning Board meeting will be moved to 5 p.m. on Monday, December 17.