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December 2, 2020

County commissioners delay consideration of new events center in China Grove

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday night was poised to deny a conditional use permit requested by Suretha Springs to build an event center on her property in China Grove before deciding to table the discussion for the next meeting.

The commissioners’ decision to table the discussion came after a nearly two-hour long quasi-judicial hearing on the subject during which several of Springs’ neighbors weighed in with their thoughts about her plans to build a 5,500-square-foot metal building on her 8.15-acre property. The building would serve as the headquarters for her event planning business and as a venue space. Along with the event center, Springs would enumerate 65 parking spaces to accommodate parties of up to 125 guests.

Springs, a military veteran, said she wanted to build the event center so she could work from home and care for her disabled sister and elderly mother while still pursuing a career as an event planner — something she has done since 2014.

To build the event center, Springs requested a conditional use permit and also needed commissioners to approve a special non-residential intensity allocation, which would permit her to exceed the area that she was allowed to build on in accordance with watershed regulations.

Springs’ request was met with fierce opposition from many of her neighbors in the Brookwood area. Anna Wyke, a registered Realtor who said she has lived in the area her whole life, led the resistance.

“I do not feel this zoning ordinance should be approved,” Wyke said.

Wyke said the event center would lead to decreased home and rental values and an increase in noise and traffic.

Other neighbors took to the podium to voice their opposition to the request as well, citing concerns about the safety of their children, an increased amount of water runoff and erosion on their property due to more impervious space being established by Springs and their concern that the event center could bring in “pedophiles,” “riff-raff” and “crime.”

Springs attempted to calm these concerns by stating her vision for the event center.

“I appreciate what you’re saying. I have grandkids too. I live on the property. I’m certainly not trying to have that type of environment myself,” Springs said. “The events that are going to be hosted will be planned and controlled. About 80% of the events I plan on hosting are for children.”

Along with weddings, Springs said other events she would host at the property might be picnics for veterans, Easter egg hunts and Christmas celebrations. Springs said the venue would be alcohol- and smoke-free, but it was pointed out by Wyke and confirmed by Rowan County Attorney Jay Dees that her rule against those wouldn’t necessarily prevent wedding guests from getting their own permits for alcohol.

Once Springs and her neighbors voiced their opinions, commissioners debated the request.

Commissioner Judy Klusman said she believed the property, zoned rural agriculture, should be rezoned as commercial, business, industrial since there is a commercial business on the adjacent lot. Klusman also expressed concerns about increased runoff generated by more development at the property.

Commissioner Craig Pierce said the event center is “just not a good fit for the neighborhood” and it would be “detrimental to the people who live there.”

Commissioner Jim Greene shared in that sentiment and said the event center doesn’t “conform with the surrounding area very well.”

Commissioner Mike Caskey raised other cautions.

“My main concern, having driven up and down that road, I just don’t know if that road can handle events out there,” Caskey said. 

As commissioners prepared to vote on the request, they decided instead to table the discussion until a future meeting. Chairman Greg Edds told Springs the option was still available for her to withdraw her request. Dees said he and Rowan County Assistant Planning Director Shane Stewart will follow up with Springs about her request this week. 

At the conclusion of the quasi-judicial hearing, Edds had a few words for those who spoke.

“Be nice to your neighbors, be kind,” Edds said.

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