South Charlotte

Union County set to launch land-use study

Union County's planning department will soon start working on an in-depth land-use study to help guide development around the Monroe Connector-Bypass.

County commissioners unanimously gave planners the go-ahead last week to pursue the "small area plan," which provides detailed recommendations for future use of parcels in a specific area. Such plans are much more detailed than the big-picture 2025 Comprehensive Plan that the commissioners adopted last October.

For the connector-bypass, land around the 19.7-mile toll road could prove especially lucrative to developers and others.

The $718 million road would help divert congestion along U.S. 74, a route favored by Mecklenburg and Union County commuters as well as vacationers. U.S. 74 is one of the only state roads that run from the beach to the mountains.

The bypass would start along U.S. 74 near Interstate 485 and the Mecklenburg County line, go briefly east and then roughly parallel U.S. 74 until it reconnects with that highway just west of Marshville. That path means it goes through municipal as well as county land.

County Planning Director Richard Black said he expects it could take a couple of years to complete a small area plan for all of the interchanges around the bypass. The county would look to collaborate with the various municipalities, and hold public meetings for property owners and other stakeholders, to help determine the best use of the parcels.

Black said dealing with the bypass is probably the most pressing planning issue that could benefit from a small area plan.

County planners ultimately would report those results back to the commissioners. After they are adopted by the board, area plans serve as amendments to the comprehensive plan for the area.

The county has some time before it sees the first cars zipping along the bypass.

The start of construction is on hold until after a federal judge rules on a challenge by environmental groups trying to stop the bypass. A ruling could come in late summer or fall.

Even if the project receives the go-ahead from the judge, state officials have said the legal battle has pushed the likely opening date of the road back from late 2014 to at least 2015.