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China Grove Town Council weighs future of previously rejected housing development

CHINA GROVE — The China Grove Town Council on Tuesday night discussed the future of a previously rejected housing development.

The discussion was initiated by Mayor Charles Seaford, who has been in contact with representatives from both the company and the engineering firm behind the development.

Council members voted 4-1 in October to deny a request for a conditional use rezoning that would have allowed the company to develop a 373-home subdivision called Collins Walk on a 175-acre parcel of property near Collins and Shue roads.

The denied request was made from Eddie Moore of the McAdams engineering and architecture firm on behalf of Lennar Homes, one of the nation’s largest homebuilding companies. Lennar, which has built housing developments in 21 states, has already built 26 communities in the Charlotte region.

The rejection of the conditional use rezoning came after a majority of council members voiced their opposition to the lot sizes proposed in the development, which they deemed too small. In its plan, Lennar proposed that 212 of the houses in the subdivision would be on 50-foot wide lots with 161 others on 60-foot wide lots.

Seaford said he and Mayor Pro Tem Rodney Phillips, who was the lone vote in favor of approving the request, reached out to the developers recently in hopes of determining what the town needs to do to work with them to bring the potential development back for consideration.

“My thought is, if we are going to have industries coming or looking at us, we need to probably be able to have housing here for people for that industry,” Seaford said.

Seaford pointed out the connection between available housing and economic development a month after former Mayor Lee Withers encouraged the council to reevaluate its perspective on potential housing developments.

Seaford then proposed a question to council members: what lot sizes would be acceptable for them to approve the rezoning and clear the path for the development?

Councilman Steve Stroud said he thought they’d already made it clear.

“I can’t imagine that they didn’t know what we were looking for,” Stroud said. “There were three different times we considered this and we told them blank that it had to be more (60-foot wide lots) than (50-foot wide lots). They turned right around and submitted the same thing over and over again.”

Stroud pointed out that it didn’t matter now because there can’t be another request for a conditional use rezoning on the property for 12-months after the last request was denied. As a result, the developers couldn’t make a request again until October — unless plans for the proposed development changed and called for all of the subdivision’s houses to be built on 70-foot wide lots.

“October will be here before we know it,” Seaford said. “I want them to be thinking, because they’re going to have to do some pre-planning beforehand, so I want to give them some information of what I thought we would accept as town council so it didn’t come up and the door gets slammed in their face again.”

Councilman Brandon Linn said it is a dead issue and the burden is on the developers to come up with a plan that the council would approve. He encouraged the developers to reach out to Assistant Town Manager Franklin Gover to determine the best way to move forward.

Seaford asked council members what percentage of 60-foot wide lots and 50-foot wide lots would be acceptable in a new proposal.

Councilman Don Bringle said he would need to consider it and would be willing to discuss it at a future meeting. He added he doesn’t want the money invested by the developers to create plans for the subdivision to go to waste.

In other meeting business:

• Bringle told the town council the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education approved renaming a road near China Grove Elementary in honor of the school’s longtime janitor Carl Wilkerson, who passed away late last year. Bringle served as China Grove’s representative on the committee that decided to rename the road “Carl Wilkerson Circle” and he requested that the town install road signage bearing the new name in addition to a plaque stating who Wilkerson was and what he meant to the community.

• Seaford said he accompanied Councilman Arthur Heggins to a nearby church last month to read a proclamation honoring Black History Month.

• Town Manager Ken Deal said the town’s staff is currently working on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and encouraged council members to let him know if they had any specific projects that they wanted to be considered for funding. He said the town is still waiting to see what its projected sales tax revenue will be.

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