Stanly commissioners approve new rural minimum lot size of three acres

ALBEMARLE — The Stanly County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 last week to increase the minimum lot size from .92 acres to three acres for rural preservation areas in the county land use plan zoned as residential/agricultural (RA). 

Under the family subdivision exception, lots can be divided up for immediate family members, although the divided properties aren’t allowed to be sold for at least three years. 

Chairman Scott Efird and Commissioners Bill Lawhon, Trent Hatley and Peter Asciutto each voted in favor of the motion. Seeking a higher minimum lot size of five acres, Vice Chairman Mike Barbee and Commissioners Patty Crump and Brandon King voted against it. 

After a lengthy public comment section where a majority of speakers in the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room voiced their desire for a five-acre minimum, Lawhon made the initial motion to target three acres instead, stating that it was a reasonable compromise to preserve natural farmland within the county without limiting residential options. 

“I think the way we start out hoping to slow down these developers is to get a larger tract than .92. I’ve heard tonight that we need to work on our residential ordinances and need to tighten them up,” he said. “If there’s a developer that’s doing something that’s not supposed to be done, then as a commissioner, I’m telling our county manager and our zoning manager that you better get them straightened out and make them do what’s required.” 

Lawhon continued, “saying all that, half of you in here are probably not going to like what I have to say, and probably half the county is not going to like what I have to say, but five acres to me is a little too much. I think we should do at least a three-acre tract and move the square footage to 60,000 square feet on the family subdivision.” 

He then amended his motion to make side setback lines 25 feet so that the closest any house will be is 50 feet apart. 

Asciutto spoke in favor of Lawhon’s motion, stating that the three-acre number would allow for more residential growth.  

“We started this a couple of years ago, questioning some of these developments that were coming in. We started seeing it, and that’s why that’s why you’re here as a result of this,” he said. “If you went to five acres, you’re going to put two houses on here…if you go to two acres, you can put six houses on here, and there’s still a lot of land for people to farm and do stuff like that.” 

Crump — one of the three commissioners seeking a minimum higher than three acres — addressed her concerns with the county’s farmland falling prey to developers.  

“I just feel like we’ve got to do something that is aggressive right now to make sure that we’re saving, and we can always dial it back,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to go forward, but if we do five acres, you can dial it back. Once we have a better conservation plan in place, there are other things that can be done that can be discussed.” 

At a special meeting on Aug. 9, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners had previously tabled a decision on the ZA23-07 text amendment until Sept. 5 meeting in order to allow more time to consider the information received.  

Additionally, the postponement of the decision gave citizens another opportunity to address the issue in a public hearing in front of the commissioners; the public comment section lasted nearly two full hours, with most speakers standing in favor of the five-acre minimum. 

The commissioners are set to hold their next regular meeting on Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. inside the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room at Stanly County Commons.