02/17/11 — Rezoning request raises concern

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Rezoning request raises concern

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 17, 2011 1:46 PM

No one from the public spoke during a rezoning public hearing Tuesday morning before county commissioners that lasted less than a minute.

However, some commissioners, Jack Best in particular, expressed concerns about approving the rezoning petition of John Harrell.

Commissioners took no action following the hearing.

Best seized on comments by County Planner Connie Price that Harrell wanted the change "hoping" to make the property more attractive to a potential buyer.

"Hoping?" Best said. "You want us to rezone it on a hope that it might be anything? You want us to rezone it on hoping that he will sell it? I don't understand that. I am sorry."

Price said the rezoning would allow a buyer to have more options on the use of the land.

Best asked Price what a buyer could do with the property.

"Anything that is allowed in the zone," Price said.

The county Planning Board had recommended approval of rezoning approximately 10 acres of land on the west side of Woodland Church Road near U.S. 13 in Brogden Township from Residential-Agriculture 20 to Village District.

The rezoning would allow the property to be used for residential or small commercial use. The current zoning does not allow commercial use.

"Why don't we wait until the fellow buys it, then have him come up here with a plan to show us what he wants to put on there before we rezone it," Best said.

If a person buys it before the zone is changed there is no guarantee that it will change, Price said.

Commissioner Andy Anderson agreed with Best and said the rezoning could "snowball" across the county and that the county could lose control.

He said the person who is going to do something on the property should be the one requesting the rezoning.

However, Keen, who is a member of the county Planning Board, said requests such as Harrell's were not unusual.

"I don't see a particular problem with it," Chairman J.D. Evans said. "He is just rezoning it."

It is an agricultural community and the rezoning would allow operations to go in that could provide services to the community, Evans said.

Like Evans, Commissioner Sandra McCullen said she did not see a problem with the request and added that base officials do not oppose the rezoning.

"We need some development in the southern end of the county," Evans said.

Best said what bothers him are concerns that the F-15 Strike Eagles based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base are getting old and will eventually give way to the next generation of aircraft.

"In doing so, we have no idea at this time what the noise level will be, what the flight patterns will be, anything about that," Best said. "For us just to rezone something without knowing what is going there appears to me... I would feel much comfortable if the guy came in here and had a commercial plan.

"My problem is just rezoning to rezone."

The area was zoned RA-20 because of the concerns Best expressed, Price said.

"It is zoned for a purpose," Price said.

Commissioner John Bell asked Price if it wouldn't be in Harrell's best interest to appear before commissioners to explain what he wanted.

The land is within the one-half mile extension of the base noise area, but is outside the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base noise levels and accident potential zone.

The county has received a letter from base officials saying that the request is compatible with the land use information in the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone Report and that they have no objection to rezoning.

In other business, the board approved Best's motion to authorize County Manager Lee Smith to proceed with a request for qualifications for the Steele Memorial Library project in Mount Olive.

The county had told the Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee members that the request for qualifications would get started after the committee had raised $300,000 of its $350,000 goal.

That threshold has been reached.

An architect or engineering firm interested in the project would submit its qualifications in response to the request for qualifications that would be used by the county select a company for the project.

It is for design only and not the actual construction.

The $350,000 represents about 10 percent of the project's anticipated $3.5 million cost to transform the former Belk's department store building into a new home for the library.

The board approved the following subdivision plats:

* Donald Gray Mitchell final, owner/developer Effie Mitchell, one lot on Mitchell Road, Brogden Township

* Diann T. Baker final, owner/developer James R. Taylor, one lot of Lancaster Road, Pikeville Township

* Chris Fields preliminary, owner/developer Earl B. and Angela D. Oliver, 53 lots on Davis Mill Road, Nahunta Township

* Oliver Heights preliminary, owner/developer Earl B. and Angela D. Oliver, 10 lots on Piney Grove Church Road, New Hope Township.

Commissioners approved appropriating $25,000 for the Wings Over Wayne Air Show to be held April 16-17 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The additional money is being sought for the show to bring in more expensive profile performers for the show.

According to an economic impact statement attached to the board's agenda, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base contributed $592 million to the county's economy in 2009.

Base officials say the air show has attracted 100,000 to 150,000 people to the county. This year's goal is 200,0000 to 300,000.

Commissioners also approved a request by the Wayne County Library Board to name the library community garden in memory of Bill Smith.

Smith, who died in January, served on the library board and the North Carolina State Library Commission. He also was active in creation of the garden.