Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New scrap metal, ice cream businesses may come to county

The Rowan County Planning Board voted to recommend two rezonings to commissioners Monday that would allow new businesses to run. The first was for Charles Blackwelder’s proposed metal recycling center at 11710 Bringle Ferry Road outside Salisbury that would accept scrap metals, catalytic converters and sealed car batteries. It would not accept cars or run demolition or disassembly.

Blackwelder said Monday that he has run a similar plant in Concord for 30 years. He decided to let his son take over that operation and open another center a little more than a mile from his home.


“I think it will help some people who are out of work by being able to come in there and sell a little bit of scrap,” Blackwelder said. “I’ve had people telling me they were glad I was there because I’m supplying grocery money.”

When a contractor working for the current owner, JEMM LLC, requested permits to install a new septic system, planning staff told the owner that the property needed to be rezoned to accommodate the operation. Staff later received an anonymous complaint on March 1 about a “junkyard for recycled metal” in operation and notified Blackwelder of the violation.

JEMM’s agent, attorney Sean Walker, then submitted a request to change the zoning of the 9.51-acre parcel from rural agricultural to industrial with a conditional use district. Walker said Monday that when Blackwelder began leasing the property, he assumed he could run his operation using the 4,600-square-foot building. The building is permitted for residential storage only, but the previous owners operated a mobile-wash and equipment-rental business there.

When told of the rezoning requirement, Blackwelder continued to get his business started while JEMM filled out an application. “He wants to be a good neighbor, he wants to run a clean operation and he wants to be in compliance as soon as possible,” Walker said. The part owner of an adjacent property, Jerry File, objected to the rezoning.

“Who would want to live next door to a junkyard?” File said. “My property would be unsellable.”He said his property consists of wetlands and a small stream that flows into High Rock Lake, and he is concerned about the impact of runoff. When Chairman Mac Butner asked if File’s property is registered as wetlands, he said no. Butner also asked if he had an appraisal performed to determine adverse effects of the business, and File said he had not.

Another neighbor, Thomas Moffa, said he’s fine with owning property next to Blackwelder’s business and doesn’t think it will hurt the market value of the house he’s selling there. “Mr. Blackwelder has done a very good job of cleaning it up,” Moffa said. “It was basically a junkyard before he got there.”

Ann Shepherd, who also lives on Bringle Ferry Road, said she doesn’t like the noise and traffic congestion the business causes. Trucks line up in both directions while waiting for it to open, she said, and metal debris sometimes scatters on the road.

Senior Planner Shane Stewart said the noise may annoy neighbors but likely would not exceed the county’s noise ordinance. John Linker, a board member, suggested limiting the footprint of the operation to address concerns from File and Shepherd about future expansion. The business currently consists of a building, storage containers and a parking lot and uses less than half of the property.

He also proposed requiring extra gravel or paving at the driveway entrance, because he has noticed mud and gravel on the highway. “I believe the other people who live by their have the same property rights as the person who wants this rezoning,” Linker said.

In addition, board member Rodney Whedbee asked if a screening buffer of trees could be added in front of the business to help create a shield. “I’m trying to create a balance to protect all property owners involved and protect Mr. Blackwelder’s business,” Whedbee said. “We really do appreciate you guys starting a business in Rowan County.”

Blackwelder said he wouldn’t mind those requirements. The board unanimously voted to recommend the request with conditions that the driveway is moved to improve sight distance and paved for the first 50 feet, a tree buffer is added and operations are limited to the front half of the property.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously gave its recommendation to a rezoning request from Elizabeth Withers Smith, who wants to reopen an ice cream shop at 9010 Cool Springs Road in Woodleaf.

The 1,000-square-foot commercial building on a 1-acre parcel was previously Brightner’s Corner Ice Cream Shop and is currently being used for personal storage. Smith has applied for a rezoning from rural agricultural to commercial, business and industrial.

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