08/10/09 — Distribution center may locate in Sampson

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Distribution center may locate in Sampson

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 10, 2009 1:46 PM

FAISON -- The potential for a multimillion-dollar distribution center on Interstate 40 that could create up to 1,200 jobs is driving a joint venture between the town of Faison and Sampson County officials who had been at odds over rezoning control of the property.

The site is located inside Sampson County, but falls within Faison's extra-territorial jurisdiction. Over the past year the town had refused to surrender its zoning authority in opposition to a Fibrowatt, a poultry litter burning power plant that has planned to build in the area.

A bill by Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson, to wrest that authority from the town stalled in the House.

However, the prospect of a distribution center prompted town officials to support a bill by Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, in which Faison would allow Sampson County to rezone, within certain parameters, property being eyed for the distribution center.

"For 1,000 to 1,200 jobs in that corner that would be ideal for everybody," said Faison Mayor Elmer Flake. "It would be a plus for everything.

"We went to Raleigh to support it (Davis' bill) and once we did that it went right through. It means we are doing a joint venture with Sampson County. We hope it is successful for everybody. Sampson County still thinks it (Fibrowatt) is coming but right now we don't know."

The Sampson site is about three miles west of Faison at Interstate 40 exist 355.

Wayne County Development Alliance President Joanna Thompson said she had been aware of the project since Wayne officials had been informed because of its possible regional impact.

The site is less than 10 miles south of Mount Olive.

Sampson County Economic Development Commission Director John Swope confirmed today that the county is one of several in the state under consideration. Other states are in the running as well, he said.

Swope said he could not provide more details.

Since early spring Sampson County has been working on what it calls the I-40/I-95 Distribution-Logistics Project. The county is spending $200,000 on the plan. It received $100,000 from the Economic Development Administra-tion of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The remainder is local funding.

That, Swope said, entails economic impact studies, feasibility studies and site analysis so that the county will be better prepared to compete for projects like a distribution center.

He credits the project with helping to generate the interest in the Interstate 40 area.

It is important, he said, to have shovel-ready sites.

"It makes you more competitive," he said. "If you can't answer questions fast enough they will move on to other locations."

He said it also is important that a company not have to deal with more than one zoning authority. That is why the bill was sought so that the zoning would rest with the county, he said.

Representatives of the company had been scheduled to visit the site on Wednesday. However, the visit has been rescheduled. Swope said he is unsure when it will take place.

He added that the project is on a "very tight, quick schedule."

Flake said he did not have any information about the company.

"I do not know who the company is," he said. "I think Sampson County may be aware of it, but they did not elect to tell us who it was. They have put quite a package together to get some distribution centers anyway and they are going to be advertising for other companies if they don't get this one.

"We have relinquished nothing we are just giving Sampson County the authority to rezone that 175 acres that they own that are inside our ETJ and then we have limited what they will be able to rezone it to."

Sampson County has bought approximately 280 acres and about 15 acres of that is on the south side of the connector road where Faison has a commercial zone and that is not changing, Flake said.

"North of that they (Sampson County) have about 260 acres and about 75 acres of that is north of our ETJ and that is where the Fibrowatt plant is slated to go," he said. "Now in the middle part of that there is about 175 acres left. Our town board met with a delegation from Sampson County a couple of weeks ago and we made an agreement that we would let them rezone that area as long as they rezone in the specifications in this bill."

Under the agreement, the property could be rezoned, with the town's approval, to light industrial, distribution, light manufacturing and commercial purposes. The act expires if the land is not rezoned by July 1, 2010.

Fibrowatt is industrial so it could not go into that area, Flake said.

"Here is a light assembly plant distribution that is trying to come into North Carolina and they are looking at six sites. That 175 acres there is one of the six sites they are looking for.

For Sampson County to be in the running for it the county needed to look at its zoning in that particular area, he said.

"For a light assembly or distribution center we would like to have it in there with that many jobs because of the proximity to our town we feel we would get something out of that," Flake said.

'This has nothing to do with Fibrowatt at all whether they come in the northern part or not still remains to be seen," he said. "We will have no control over Fibrowatt whatsoever.

"I think the people were supposed to look at it this week and then 30 days to make a decision. That would help everything because if you look at a 25-mile radius of that would include a good portion of Sampson County, a good portion of Duplin County and would go into Wayne County and it would go into Johnston County."