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Ch. 3: Responsibly Managed Growth

Salisbury will be a regionally connected community that builds on a historic legacy and strong development standards in order to create a city that grows responsibly with accessible transportation and adequate infrastructure.

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Forward 2040 Chapter 3: Responsibly Managed Growth

Growth and development is responsible when it happens intentionally around a shared vision for improving the quality of life. In Salisbury, it is important to expand the city’s tax base in order to maintain high quality infrastructure and services without adding burden to current tax payers. At the same time, unfettered growth is not the goal.  It is equally important to direct development toward areas of the city with infrastructure and service capacity and where land use change does not threaten natural assets.  The purpose of this chapter is to provide goals and policies for encouraging development in an efficient and sustainable pattern. 

Goal 3.1. Promote coordinated and efficient growth as the City expands 

In recent years, rapid growth from the Charlotte and Triad regions have shown signs of converging in Salisbury. After years of stagnant growth of jobs and population, trends began to change in 2020.  Growth is coming in the form of residential subdivisions, and large light industrial distribution centers along the I-85 corridor. As demand for development continues to push outward from the city’s corporate limits, it is increasingly important to work with local partners throughout the County to ensure the benefits of development do not outweigh the costs.

Policy 3.1.1.

Establish the Growth Strategies Map to guide decisions regarding growth and development, especially when considering annexations, development approvals, service extensions, incentives, and capital improvements. The Growth Strategies Map will be updated from time to time in order to reflect changing conditions.  (The Growth Strategies Map is found in Figure 3.1).

Growth Action 1

Establish annexation agreements with neighboring jurisdictions to address growth boundaries.

Policy 3.1.2.

Avoid, insofar as possible, patterns of leapfrog or scattered development, especially in Tier 3 of the Growth Strategies Map.

Policy 3.1.3.

Support orderly development patterns that take advantage of existing infrastructure and urban services.

Policy 3.1.4.

Evaluate the impacts of all amendments to the future land use map, zoning map and annexation petitions that significantly increase permitted density to ensure issues of infrastructure capacity resulting from the projected intensification or development are adequately mitigated or addressed. 

Policy 3.1.5.

Evaluate requests to extend water and sewer services to support private development upon request to annex into the City. 

Growth Action 2:

Work with city departments that deliver services and the Finance Department, develop a tool that evaluates the fiscal benefits and costs of annexation.

Policy 3.1.6.

Consider the City’s participation in the cost of providing water and sewer services to development projects which are particularly supportive of the City’s growth management objectives as incentives.  

Policy 3.1.7.

Promote a balance between land designated for housing and land planned for employment to ensure a strong tax base to build and maintain quality infrastructure and levels of service. 

Policy 3.1.8.

Partner with providers of infrastructure and community services, such as Rowan Salisbury Schools, Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, Rowan County and other municipalities to support efficient growth and development, especially in areas of the city and unincorporated county where services are already in place.

Ten Principles of Smart Growth

Smart Growth is a decades old principle in urban planning described by the US EPA as “a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect our health and natural environment and make our communities  more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse.” It is grounded in 10 basic principles.
  • Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
  • Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions 
  • Mix land uses
  • Take advantage of compact building design
  • Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
  • Create walkable neighborhoods
  • Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
  • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
  • Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities 
  • Provide a variety of transportation choices

Growth Strategies Framework

The Growth Strategies Map provides a “big picture” vision for where and how to promote growth. While it is general, and not parcel specific, it is meant to communicate priorities. The Growth Strategies Map is organized around several elements: Development Tiers, Centers, and Corridors. 

Development Tiers:

Development Tiers depict areas for future growth, and have been informed by the availability of utilities and fire service areas. While the City is in conversation with Rowan County and neighboring municipalities regarding annexation agreements, Tiers 2 and 3 are intentionally left vague. 
  • Tier 1 follows the current city limits and Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) where the city already has planning and zoning authority. Tier 2 includes areas along the I-85 corridor  and to the west between NC 70 and NC 150 where utilities and fire protection are in the vicinity and could more easily be extended.  Tier 3 represents areas further to west, where utilities could be extended in the future.


Centers depict priority areas for focused development or redevelopment. In the future, they may be the site of infrastructure improvements, streetscape enhancements, or grants/incentives to help achieve the desired character. There are several types of centers: 
  • Downtown Center includes the historic core of the city and is intended to be a mixed use area that is the central commercial, cultural, entertainment hub of the city. 
  • Employment Centers are focused at strategic locations where there is access to regional transportation infrastructure, and where large scale employment opportunities exist.  Office parks, light manufacturing, warehousing and distribution would be encouraged.
  • Institutional Centers are intended to accommodate large scale public or semi-public uses including hospitals, colleges, and civic uses.
  • Community Activity Centers are intended to evolve over time from predominantly suburban commercial into a walkable mixed use development and destination.
  • Neighborhood Activity Centers are existing small scale commercial areas that could evolve over time into mixed use districts. Emphasis is on connections to nearby residential areas.
  • Regional Commercial Centers are existing areas where auto-oriented commercial shopping centers are expected to remain prevalent. 


  • Future Corridors include those proposed on the Rowan Cabarrus MPO’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan’s Highway Map, and include extensions of Jake Alexander Boulevard and Airport Parkway.  
  • Activity Corridors include those areas along main thoroughfares where there is existing commercial development that warrants additional considerations for improving walkability, bikeability and urban design. 
  • New Residential Corridors are typically rural roads where there is expected to be increased residential density. Improvements to the roads will likely be needed to support residential growth. 

Goal 3.2. Drive development toward Activity Centers and Corridors

Zoning changes paired with city investments in infrastructure along key corridors and developments nodes can prompt transformation. Perhaps the best example is the East Innes Gateway Corridor. A streetscape project, coupled with the initiation of a zoning overlay district and a package of appearance grants have led to significant change. Focusing initiatives in strategic locations should help to lead to tangible results.  

Policy 3.2.1.

Promote development of compact and walkable Activity Centers and Corridors. These centers will be developed at varying scales and with varying land use mixes as identified in the Growth Strategy and Future Land Use Map.

Policy 3.2.2. 

Support reinvestment of underutilized commercial areas through rezoning, investment in infrastructure and offering grants or incentives. 

Policy 3.2.3. 

Identify and establish new Activity Centers at key intersections along planned new transportation corridors.

Policy 3.2.4. 

Work with local partners to promote incentivizes supporting appropriate economic development in Activity Centers and Corridors.

Goal 3.3.

Align land use decisions with transportation investments  Since it’s earliest inception, Salisbury’s land use decisions have been aligned with investments in transportation, from the original layout of the four squares, to the growth of the City following the arrival of the railroad, to the suburbanization with the advent of cars and the Interstate system. While single occupancy cars will likely remain the dominant form of transportation, to adapt to current trends, there is a need to balance volume and speed of cars with comfort and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.  

Policy 3.3.1. 

Coordinate transportation planning, development and investment in transportation infrastructure, including the transit system, with the Growth Strategies and Future Land Use Maps. 

Policy 3.3.2.

Actively participate in the Cabarrus Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization in developing long range transportation plans in concert with land use plans.

Policy 3.3.3.

Reserve rights-of-way for roadway, trail and greenway projects identified on the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan, the Metropolitan Transportation Plan and the State’s Transportation Improvement Plan through the development review process.

Policy 3.3.4.

Consider the desired character of development when designing transportation cross-sections and intersections, balancing the need to accommodate volume but also the comfort and safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.

Growth Action 3:

Invest in studies of Activity Corridors to evaluate options for balancing volume and speed with safety and walkability.

Policy 3.3.5.

Consider the cumulative impact of development on the transportation network.

Growth Action 4:

Evaluate decreasing the threshold for trips generated by development to require a Traffic Impact Analysis. 

Goal 3.4. Preserve green spaces and rural character

As pressure to continue to develop land grows, it is vitally important to value and preserve green spaces as natural habitat for biodiversity, ecosystem services, recreational areas, and as beautiful landscapes. 

Policy 3.4.1.

Encourage conservation developments, where appropriate, to achieve open space preservation, especially in those parts of the city with special environmental concerns such as flooding or watershed protection overlays.

Policy 3.4.2.

Discourage the extension of water and sewer lines to areas that would encourage the inappropriate development of environmentally sensitive areas. 

Policy 3.4.3.

Avoid development of avoid environmentally sensitive areas, including steep slopes greater than 15 %, waterways, wetlands, and floodplains. Where practical, these features should be conserved and incorporated into the design as open spaces amenities. Where disturbance is unavoidable, minimize interventions to maintain the natural condition as much as possible.

Policy 3.4.4.

Work in collaboration with property owners and other local partners to secure permanently protected open space.  

Policy 3.4.5.

Include privately maintained parks, community facilities and other amenities in large scale development to help meet the demands created by the development.

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