11/09/06 — Commission reviews options in Case Farms rezoning

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Commission reviews options in Case Farms rezoning

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 9, 2006 1:45 PM

Wayne County commis-sioners listened to the benefits and disadvantages of rezoning property owned by Case Farms at its processing plant south of Goldsboro during a public hearing on the issue Tuesday.

Case officials want to expand their operation and need to have about 20 acres of land rezoned to heavy industry for that purpose.

But the property lies within the protected zone surrounding Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Too much development in the zone could lead military officials to reconsider the base's mission. Seymour Johnson fared well in the recent round of base closings and realignments, but county officials have long said that they must continue to do everything possible to prevent development from encroaching on the base. The loss of Seymour Johnson would deal a devastating blow to the county's economy.

The Case property is located on the north side of Pecan Road, off the southern end of the base's protected zone. County planners and Case Farms representatives have been working for months with Air Force officials to determine how to accommodate the needs of the business and those of the air base.

No Air Force officials spoke at Tuesday's hearing.

The county Planning Board has recommended rezoning the 20 acres from light industry to heavy industry to permit the expansion.

Mike Haney of the county Development Alliance told commissioners that expansion of the plant would help the company, which employs about 900 people and supports dozens of poultry growers in the area. The plant processes about 140,000 birds a day, Haney said. Case has been in operation at the site since 1998.

The plant's annual payroll is about $20 million, company complex manager Sam Robertson said. Expansion would permit the company to add five more processing lines, Robertson said, and create an additional 500 jobs.

"We'll be able to contribute greatly to the county, and we want the opportunity to do that," Robertson said.

Connie Price, the county's Planning Director, told commissioners that rezoning would increase the percentage of land around the base considered as potentially harmful to its mission. If more non-conforming zones around the air base are permitted, Price said, the next Base Realignment and Closure Commisison could decide to move or close the base.