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Commissioners green light additional houses at Cherry Treesort in China Grove

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday night cleared the way for several new structures to be built at the Cherry Treesort in China Grove.

Following a quasi-judicial hearing, commissioners unanimously approved a request from Trent Cherry for an amendment to a conditional use permit issued in 2017. The amendment will allow Cherry to construct an additional seven tree houses on the southern end of his roughly 26-acre property. 

This is the second time that Cherry, who started the ecotourism resort in 2016, has sought approval from commissioners to construct structures on the property. In addition to five existing treehouses, Cherry recently built two hobbit-style homes that are primarily underground.

In accordance with a request from Rowan County Fire Marshal Deborah Horne, Cherry will finish construction of a looped road around the homes that would allow firetrucks to navigate the property with ease. Cherry also agreed to buffering requirements to shield the new tree houses from neighbors within 200 feet.

The amendment to Cherry’s permit wasn’t approved without opposition from a neighbor.

Donna Hampton, who lives nearby on Beaver Road, cited issues with noise and the appearance of the property while expressing her opposition to the addition of more houses.

Hampton said that there have been multiple occasions in which loud noises from the property have disturbed her late at night. The latest example, she said, happened on Saturday night and included loud shouting extending until almost midnight. Hampton said she considered calling law enforcement about the shouting, but instead waited for it to subside. Next time might be different, she said.

“They’re (Cherry’s) people, they’re his clients and I don’t feel like that’s my responsibility,” Hampton said.

Hampton also said there was an instance several months ago in which a neighbor of hers had a stray puppy wander from the Cherry Treesort to her home. Cherry said he has a no-pet policy and that he told Hampton to call him if there is noise late into the night. Cherry said he hasn’t received any such calls.

Since there have been complaints from neighbors about noise and safety at the Cherry Treesort in the past, the Planning Department obtained a copy of all 911 calls made to the property over the last 13 months. Only two calls were made: one due to an allergic reaction and the other due to a stalking incident. Cherry said he wasn’t aware of the stalking incident. The allergic reaction call, he said, was made because someone had an allergic reaction to wood in the treehouse.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said he thinks the periodical noise is simply living and nothing out of the ordinary.

Commissioner Craig Pierce said that the county has an amplified noise ordinance and encouraged Hampton to call law enforcement if she has any issues with the property.

“If it gets to be too much, it gives us grounds to do something different,” Pierce said.

In other meeting business:

• The Board of Commissioners approved a request from NorthPoint Development to rezone a 44.85-acre parcel of land located at the 400 block of Webb Road from 85-ED-2 to commercial, business and industrial.

The land is owned by Sharon Fesperman and Willis Myers. NorthPoint has plans to build a roughly 650,000-square-foot speculative industrial building on the property that will house a tenant that’s not yet been named. NorthPoint constructed the 609,301-square-foot Chewy distribution center in 2020.

The rezoning request already passed the planning board unanimously.

NorthPoint Project Manager Michael Johnston attended the meeting and said his company was looking forward to completing another project in Rowan County. Edds said the county is still thankful to the company for helping bring Chewy and encouraged Johnston to reach out if his company needed anything to make this project go well.

Bill Godair, a pastor at nearby Cornerstone Church, said during the meeting he was excited about NorthPoint’s plans for the land across from his church.

• Mike Tanck, a representative from Charter Communications, provided commissioners with an update regarding the company’s recent award of Federal Rural Digital Opportunity Funds for underserved areas for broadband in Rowan County.

The company will be investing $5 billion nationally to bring broadband to underserved areas identified by census tracts, including many areas of North Carolina. The company will receive $1.2 billion from the federal government to offset the program. The program is in its early stages and will likely take up to six years to come to fruition. Edds said he doesn’t want the county to be “shuffled to the back” of the company’s priority list for internet expansion in North Carolina and said the county was committed to cooperating with Charter Communications.

• Commissioners approved a pending settlement agreement that will have the county pay $5,500 to Foley Home Sales, LLC regarding a complaint from the company about an issue involving the failure of, and the subsequent repair of, a septic system. The state of North Carolina will also pay $5,500 in the settlement.

• Commissioners scheduled a budget work session for 10 a.m. on May 6. In addition to regular budget planning, commissioners will likely discuss the funding that the county will receive from the American Rescue Plan.

• Commissioners gave their blessing for the county to form a memorandum of understanding with the VA’s Vet Center program for the program to locate a Community Access Point in Rowan County. The Vet Center program works to give veterans a place to meet for therapy while breaking the stigma that can be associated with trips to the hospital.

• During the litter report, commissioners learned that the Department of Environmental Management removed 37.77 tons of litter and debris from Rowan County roadsides, 330 improperly discarded tires and 131 syringes in the first quarter of 2021.

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