County approves Eco-Tech plan

Officials approved a Catawba County development plan Monday that will build upon plans and initiatives more than 15 years in the works.

Catawba County Commissioners approved the 321 Eco-Tech Development Plan on Monday, taking another large step in making some of the project’s long-range goals a reality.

The purpose of the Eco-Tech plan is to develop specific strategies for getting long-term county goals completed. Building on existing plans from the past 15 years, the Eco-Tech plan has strategies for economic development, land use, transportation, public services and utilities, natural resources, and cultural resources, according to a planning PowerPoint.

The bulk of the plan revolves around the U.S. 321 corridor in southwest Catawba County — an area that has seen recent increases in economic development with the construction of the Target distribution center, Apple data center and the county’s EcoComplex.

Catawba Planning Director Jacky Eubanks said the 321 corridor has seen a lot of recent economic success, pointing out that the new businesses could serve as a catalyst for other eco-development projects in the surrounding area.

Wanting to take advantage of some of these opportunities as soon as possible, county commissioners also agreed Monday to rezone about 500 acres around the EcoComplex from residential property to a 321-ED (I) Industrial district. The rezoned area was mostly farmland before, but can now be used for industrial purposes, Eubanks said.

“The immediate impact is that it immediately opens up opportunity for development now,” Eubanks said. “It does mean that if an industrial prospect came to the EcoComplex, it is now zoned industrial. It is less hurdles for a potential entity to overcome in the future.”

The board did rezone the land, but only after removing about 112 acres from the original rezoning request after county resident Paul Gadd voiced concern about the future businesses encroaching on his home south of the EcoComplex.

Eubanks said the land eliminated from the rezoning proposal is mostly rural and would not be used for many industrial opportunities anyway.

Commissioners also agreed to rezone property owned by Hmong Southeast Puavpheej Inc., that lies within the 321 Eco-Tech plan’s boundaries.

Commissioners voted to rezone the Hmong property from residential to 321-ED Industrial and 321-ED Mixed-Use districts.

Members of the Hmong community attended the board’s meeting Monday to support the rezoning, as the new industrial and mixed-use zones will help their festivals and other events they hold throughout the year.

Just because commissioners approved the plan Monday, it does not mean changes can’t be made to the Eco-Tech Development Plan in the future.

Eubanks said approval of further rezoning requests and plan specifics will also have to be approved in the future.

“All of those things happen over time,” Eubanks said. “That plan is just a blueprint over time.”

Commissioners also approved:

A resolution for financing of up to $400,000 for expansion and renovation for Oxford Fire Protection Association Inc. to obtain a more favorable interest rate. The board also agreed to allow the association to appropriate $25,182 to the existing fund balance to pay for the cost of the expansion and renovation.