04/17/08 — Proposed sawmill near base gets OK

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Proposed sawmill near base gets OK

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 17, 2008 2:14 PM

Despite the possibility that the change in zoning might someday open the 12-acre tract of land south of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base up to unwanted uses, the Wayne County Planning Board voted 3-2 last week to approve the request made by Wiggins Lumber.

And on Tuesday, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners agreed to schedule a May 20 public hearing on the issue.

Wiggins Lumber, owned by Kenneth Wiggins of Atlantic Beach, requested that the plot just off U.S. 117 South alternate in Brogden Township be rezoned from residential/agriculture to heavy industry to move its sawmill from Casey's Mill Road in Dudley.

The reason, explained county Planning Director Connie Price, is that the mill is currently in a flood plain.

"They wanted to get out of that," he said.

The board split on the decision, though, because of fears the heavy industry zoning might allow for uses incompatible with the land's location relative to the base.

On the other hand, Price explained, because of the tract's location in the base's noise zone, a heavy industry like a sawmill is actually preferable to housing. Also in the request's favor is the fact it was not open-ended.

"(Wiggins) asked for it to be rezoned for a specific use," he said. "And the sawmill is a preferred use over residential. Of course the best land use is what it is now -- completely empty."

Also in request's favor, though, is its proximity to the railroad, as well as the fact that it can be easily screened.

Additionally, Price said, the sawmill would be relatively small as the company deals mainly with decorative and custom pieces.

It is, he added, a matter of "retention of jobs."

"They (the board) decided the benefits outweigh any negatives. I think it will be a good use of the property," Price said.