LINCOLNTON – The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners approved multiple zoning applications and wrestled with how much to regulate properties at its Aug. 15 meeting.

Commissioners approved a plan, proposed by Larry Mashburn, to add up to 198 single-family homes in a development on proposed Saint James Church Road. Although Mashburn said the project is entering the “hard part” of figuring out financing and technical engineering, he expects construction to start in late winter 2016 or early spring 2017.

The amendment to a previously approved Westport permit also got approval. Tom Daniel’s request to amend the Westport project to allow for more zero-lot-line homes and fewer single-family homes was unanimously approved by the board. The approval came after a long public hearing process that began in early June.

After several Westport residents voiced concerns over the project, Commissioner Martin Oakes requested delaying voting on the application to allow Daniel and residents to meet and discuss possible concerns and solutions. There will still be another public hearing for the project that will deal with how the developer plans to handle stormwater runoff.

The applications that drew more debate were a request for a riding stable on Magnolia Grove Road off N.C. 27 and a request for a winery and event hall on the west side of King Wilkinson Road at Mundy Road.

Oakes wanted to approve the application for the riding stable on the condition that the stable only house up to 24 horses.

“In the planning board minutes (planning board member) Keith Johnson made a big point at the fact that without a condition you could have any number of horses like 1,200 or 3,000 or who knows,” Oakes said. “The applicant stated that ideally, 20 horses could be put on the property without harming the grass, that she actually expected to do seven to 10, so by saying 24 that puts a limit on the – constraining to her business issues, but it also prevents some future owner putting 1,200 horses on the property.”

Vice Chair Carrol Mitchem took issue with this, saying it was too much regulation.

“Whatever she’s doing with them horses or anybody else, how you going to tell anybody else that’s got horses, dogs or cows or anything they got about how many they can have per acre? Martin, get in the real world,” Mitchem said.

Other commissioners took issue as well, saying such a limitation would set a precedent for further regulating other properties.

“The owner was not objecting to any limitation, but I think we’re going down a dark road,” Commissioner Bill Beam said.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the application, with Oakes voting against.

The theme of regulation came up again with the winery and events hall, as the Planning Board had voted to recommend approving the application on the condition that two acres of grapevines be planted before the ABC permit was approved. This was because of a requirement by the unified development ordinance that a winery must be on the same property as a vineyard, Randy Hawkins, county zoning administrator, said.

Because there are not any restrictions about whether the winery uses the grapes from the property and some of the commissioners had concerns about enforcement and too much regulation, the board voted 4-1 to approve the application without the condition.

Commissioner Alex Patton voted against the motion based on his stand on alcohol. Patton was the sole no vote in May when the board voted to allow breweries to operate in commercial zones.

Doug and Karen Lusk are the applicants for the King Wilkinson project. At the public hearing on Aug. 1, the couple said they wanted to build the wedding venue first and then plant the grapes and open the winery. The event hall could be used for weddings, receptions, reunions and other events. Doug Lusk said one of the most important things to him is bringing something new to the area.

“There’s not nothing like this in this area,” he said. “We want something just really unique and really nice… I’m really adamant about having something really nice and unique,” he said.

The board also voted to approve changes in health department fees. The fee for well-water testing will increase for tests that are requested and not part of the required sampling except for bacteriological sampling, which did not change. The changes were to compensate for increases in what the state lab charges the health department for sampling kits. The amount of increase depends on the type of test, but all include a $10 increase to cover the cost of shipping the kit.

There will also be a new fee for homeowners who use engineers to inspect their septic tanks, as the local health department still has to sign off on the inspection. The new fee would be $90 for residential properties and $105 for commercial properties.

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