Eco-Tech plan 'disturbs' citizens

Several citizens voiced concern Thursday about a Catawba County development plan that will prompt more industrial business in rural and residential areas.
County planners unveiled new plans for the Eco-Tech Development initiative Thursday evening that will seek to expand upon the “noticeable activity” around the U.S. 321 corridor. That noticeable activity refers to the Target Distribution Center, Apple Data Center and County Eco-Complex all constructed around the U.S. 321 corridor within the last five years.
“This is the area where we see a lot of new developments, so we are trying to recognize that expansion and build upon it,” said Catawba County Planner Mike Poston. “We are looking at land use, and seeing what areas make sense for this, and what makes sense for that. What we are doing is identifying potential areas for expansion in the future.”
Expansion plans displayed Thursday included technology and eco-industrial sites around the existing Apple, Target and Eco-Complex facilities. The “economic development opportunity” sites also included areas around River Road, N.C. 10, Rocky Ford Road and U.S. 321.
Preparing for these technology expansion areas means possible changes in zoning — which concerns citizens like Howard Reinhardt, of Maiden, who has lived his whole life in a rural area around the planned Eco-Tech development area.
“My family has had rural land on this property for more than 250 years,” Reinhardt said. “We don’t mind seeing current industrial parks, but we don’t want to see any more.”
Reinhardt, who lives in fairly close proximity to the Apple Data Center, said there are many advantages to having agricultural land, but said those benefits are lost when that rural land is industrialized.
“Most of us enjoy our rural property, and we plan on handing it off the land to our children in the future,” said Reinhardt’s wife, Reba. “We just want to be able to continue to enjoy our agricultural background.”
Reba and her husband agreed that there are other possibilities for the county to expand, such as existing industrial parks.
“They need to go to where industrial parks are already,” Reinhardt said. “The services and utilities are already there for them.”
Reinhardt said it “disturbs” him that officials are overlooking the activity that has brought the county economical success in the past — agriculture.  
Reinhardt’s property was in a “transitional” zone on the mapped plans, which Poston said identifies land that is compatible with developments that could occur in the future.
Reinhardt said he was confused what transitional meant and wanted clearer answers.
“Everything he kept saying was could, could, could,” Reinhardt said, adding that the current Apple Data Center does not bother him because of their eco-friendly, concealed nature.
“If Apple had 500 people working for them, it would bother me twice daily,” Reinhardt added.
Poston and other county planners reiterated that “nothing is set in stone.” Poston said that the proposed plans would not actively or proactively encourage re-zoning any property.
The plans would re-zone the Blackburn Landfill property, where the Eco-Complex is located, in addition to a Hmong Cultural property also inside the targeted area. Poston said, however, that the owners of the Hmong property welcome the change.
The Eco-Tech planning initiative will affect a lot more in the area surrounding U.S. 321 corridor. To see the entire plan, visit planning/hwy321.