05/13/09 — Planners approve rezoning for Keen

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Planners approve rezoning for Keen

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 13, 2009 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Planning Board Tuesday night went against staff recommendations to approve a rezoning request by board member and County Commissioner Steve Keen.

Keen and Planning Board Chairman Chris Cox, who is marketing the property for Keen, recused themselves from the vote and sat in the audience during the board discussion, but did offer comments.

Keen had petitioned the county to rezone roughly 70 acres fronting U.S. 70 near Wal-Mart in the Rosewood community. The property currently is zoned RA-20 for residential and agricultural use.

The property is located on the south side of U.S. 70 approximately 1,000 feet east of N.C. 581. Keen asked that the front 51 acres be zoned community shopping and the back 19 acres as Residential-15 in order to build 48 single-family units in a cluster housing pattern.

Changing from RA-20 to RA-15 would allow lots of 15,000 square feet as opposed to 20,000 square feet. The houses, Keen said, would each be about 2,000 square feet.

No specific information about the housing or commercial development was discussed. However in a Wednesday morning interview Keen said the patio-style brick houses would cost between $200,000 to $285,000. Once developed the residential portion of the project would have a value of close to $12.5 million. Keen said the development would be similar to Garden Walk on Country Day School Road and would have walking trails and open green spaces.

The six commercial front out parcels are valued at $500,000 each for a total of $3 million. The center part of the commercial portion could add another $9 million to $12 million to the property value.

Keen said commercial development would be located near the front of the property with possibly additional shopping and medical offices, such as doctors and dentists, in the middle. The residential area would be further back, he said.

The land already is being cleaned and prepared and the project could be under way within 12 months once approved, he said.

The focus, however, is on the commercial property since there has been some interest shown in the property. He did not mention specifics of the interest.

County Planning Director Connie Price recommended that the 19 acres be rezoned, but that the remaining 51 acres be left as is.

Price said the rezoning request for the commercial designation complied with 16 points in the county's comprehensive land use plan, but failed to meet eight others.

In particular, he pointed out the property's proximity to the N.C. Department of Transportation maintenance yard and other industrial property that could expose residents to harmful effects of incompatible development or environmental hazards.

However, the reason cited specifically by Price was the county's lack of adequate standards to guarantee the development's appearance, in particular signs and parking lots.

Surveyor Bobby Rex Kornegay, who presented the request on behalf of Keen, said that it could take years for the county to have those guidelines in place.

"To base not to zone because of appearance does not hold water to me," Cox said.

He also noted that the community shopping zone was what the county was looking at for land across U.S. 70 from Keen's property. Cox was making reference to the county's plans to begin holding meetings to gain public comment about zoning throughout certain areas in the county.

The first area to be considered extends along U.S. 70 from Goldsboro to the Johnston County line.

Board member Brad Wells, who later made the motion to approve the original request, asked Price what would be needed to satisfy the needs for appearance. Price responded that once rezoned that "almost anything" could go on the property including service stations, motels, restaurants, clubs TV and/or radio repair.

Also, the county is in the process of developing parking lot standards and sign standards.

"If those rules were in place I would be more comfortable," he said.

Kornegay said that those kinds of decisions are normally made as each parcel is approved.

"You just approved (rezoning) on (N.C.) 111 and it (appearance) was not an issue and I don't see why it would be now," Kornegay said.

Kornegay was referring to the board's unanimous vote earlier in the meeting to rezone 16.7 acres on N.C. 111 near Ditch Bank Road from RA-20 to community shopping. The request had been made by Jim Daniels of Daniels Development. Daniels said he planned to build an office and equipment yard.

However, because of the economy he said he has no definite plan to develop the property at the moment.

"This (Keen project) has been going on for two years and at no time no one has given me any indication there would be a problem with it being community shopping," Cox said. "If it was going to be a problem it should have come up before now."

As to Price's contention that rezoning the property would open it up to a variety of business, Kornegay said the land would be "high value."

"It is going to take a business to support the price it is going to have to pay to buy that land," he said.

In his Wednesday comments, Keen said there would be no metal type buildings going up on the land.

"It will be a great enhancement to the area," he said.

Cox said during the meeting that when big companies like Wal-Mart look for land they want them zoned so they know what to expect.

He said the rezoning is part of the groundwork being laid to generate property tax values and sales for the county.

In response to questioning from the board, Cox said that water and sewer are available at the site.

Kornegay said the DOT has been contacted about two access points onto U.S. 70. Also, he said that road work on the U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass would include a road that would allow the property to access N.C. 581.

Local businessman David Weil told the board that the back road would cross his property and that he was cooperating with Keen on the road.

Keen said he had originally wanted a stoplight on U.S. 70, but had been asked by the U.S. 70 Commission to remove the request from the project design.

He added that he had contracted with Kimley-Horn and Associates, the same consultants being used by the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, because of its familiarity with U.S. 70. The company provided conceptual ideas for the project, he said.

Keen said he had acquired the property in question from Cox after he (Keen) had sold his car wash business. Cox, a land broker, had handled the deal that lead to the Rosewood Wal-Mart development, Keen said.

Wells, Mike Aycock and Vice Chairman Joanne Summerlin, who acted as chairman during the discussion, voted to recommend the rezoning to county commissioners. Board member Hattie Frederick voted no.

The recommendation now goes before county commissioners, who will hold a public hearing before any action can be taken.