03/11/09 — Zoning idea gets first look by board

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Zoning idea gets first look by board

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 11, 2009 1:46 PM

An area west of Goldsboro along U.S. 70 to the Johnston County line and the area surrounding what will be the U.S. 70 Bypass interchange at Wayne Memorial Drive Tuesday night were floated as potential locations for the county's first attempts to introduce countywide zoning.

No action was taken and no recommendation made in what Planning Board members said could be a lengthy process that would involve the public's input.

Meanwhile, board Chairman Chris Cox said the selection of the area west of Goldsboro, which includes Rosewood, was in no way connected with Rosewood Townes, a proposed low-income housing project, that has created a controversy in the Rosewood community.

The area suggested by Planning Director Connie Price is bounded on the north by the Little River and its flood plain, Johnston County to the west, the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks to the south and the Goldsboro extraterritorial jurisdiction limit to the east.

Price prefaced his presentation by noting he had begun working on the concept more than six months ago.

He said he had not brought it up then because the county had been in the midst of an election.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with Rosewood Townes," Cox said. "This board has been looking at doing zoning in the whole county in different areas and it just so happened Rosewood Townes came to the board.

"The board of commissioners would have had the same decision to make whether it had been zoned or not. The zoning wasn't the issue. The issue was whether the county commissioners were going to back the project and get the funds."

Zoning, along with annexation, has long been an unpopular topic.

However, in recent weeks commissioners have signaled their willingness to begin looking at zoning. The county already employs some limited zoning including around schools.

At a planning retreat last week, Commissioner Jack Best said the commission would not have been caught in the middle of the fight over the low-rent housing project had some sort of zoning been in place.

Several commissioners also noted that there had been an undercurrent of support for zoning during a recent board meeting when opponents spoke out against the project.

Best, during the planning session, even went as far as to say it was time for the county to move on zoning to protect the interchanges that will be created by the new U.S. 70 Bypass.

Commissioners want the Planning Board to look at zoning and to make recommendations, Cox said.

Board member Brad Well wanted to know about the rest of the county.

"Baby steps, baby steps," Cox replied.

Price said he could "develop something like this for the whole county," but that the board would be dealing with "a massive area with a lot of people."

"I think it is better to do it this way," Price said. "Do it along strategic areas, do it along 70, the interchanges along the new highway. Get those areas and then see if there are other strategic areas that are growing close to Goldsboro that need to have protection.

"That is what zoning is all about anyway. It is not designed to promote growth. That is not the purpose of zoning. The purpose of zoning is to protect property owners from non-compatible uses."

Wells said it is important to have a plan so that it will go, "one, two, three ... right down the board."

He added that he would like to see a timeline as well.

"I like that approach," said board member and Commissioner Steve Keen, a longtime proponent of protecting the interchanges. "I don't want the people in this area to feel like they are being treated any differently than another area. So, we put it all on the page at one time, but then take segments and work on them.

"I think it may help us going in to look at the whole county and maybe do like you said and put little circles around areas and make them priorities like we did the highway system."

That lets the public know "we will be getting to you" over the space of several months, he said.

"I just don't want people to think we are singling out this area," Keen said.

Keen suggested that the board use the county's comprehensive land use plan in its zoning deliberations.

That, Price said, would allow the county to see "what is out there and potential conflicts in those areas."

"I think there are still some considerations to be made as far as zoning is concerned," Cox said. "Zoning has its place and we as a board need to take all of those considerations in as to how it affects the landowner in Wayne County. That is the reason the county and citizens need to be involved in the decision. We want to hear what they have to say about it. Do they want the zoning or do they not want the zoning?"

Price said the process would include community meetings where people could look at large maps of an affected area to find their property and to ask questions.

Price said he wanted to get the information out to the community to get suggestions before preparing a draft plan. He said he hopes residents will come forth when the Planning Board produces proposals.

Zoning also is seen as a way to protect the six interchanges to be built along the U.S. 70 Bypass.

Keen said he would like to see the development along the roads in order to prevent sprawl.

"We are trying to be proactive not reactive." Cox said. "We are trying to look at these new intersections we are going to have. How do we need to get zoning in place? How do we need to get water and sewer out there? And this is just part of the process.

"This is what I, and I think the board, considers as a growth corridor. Growth corridors are areas in which there are already main corridors of traffic to begin with so we are just trying to put steps in place where we can accommodate businesses and residential and the rural and farmers."

Cox said it is "extremely important" to protect the interchanges.

"The reason it's important is that our businesses along Highway 70 produce revenue and from that revenue we get (sales) taxes and the taxes pay for the debt service for the schools," he said.

"There is always talk between commissioners and Board of Education about the money. Well, we need to make more money so we can have better education. So if we change traffic patterns, how does that affect our revenue? We need to know that."

Cox said it is important to run water and sewer to the interchanges so that the county does not lose that revenue.

"We need to try to get somebody to listen and to try to get money to get water and sewer out there as soon as possible because we don't need a gap," he said. "If the road is going to be built and the water and sewer aren't there, then there is going to be period of time that we can't develop out there because there is no infrastructure to support it."