06/10/11 — Officials: Rail system needs work

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Officials: Rail system needs work

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 10, 2011 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners created a new zoning district this week -- Heavy Industry Conditional District -- and just moments later applied that zone to Goldsboro Milling Co.'s operation on Miller's Chapel Road to allow expansion of the rail siding and construction of a new grain elevator at the 80-acre site.

The board's actions also sparked a brief discussion on the need for rail improvements in the county.

The property, located on the east side of Millers Chapel Road at its intersection with the Atlantic and East Carolina Railroad, had been zoned Light Industry.

The site is outside of the base's Accident Potential Zones. However it is within the Approach-Departure Clearance Imaginary Surface for Runway 26 (east end of runway) and the base's high-noise area.

The new zone and rezoning had been recommended by the Wayne County Planning Board. Commissioners held public hearings on both issues before voting.

The existing Heavy Industry zone allows feed mills and rail sidings, but does not impose a maximum height limitation -- a concern in this case because of the property's proximity to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The new zone addresses the maximum height limitation.

Permitted uses under the new Heavy Industry Conditional District include feed mills, grain elevators, railroad sidings, offices, warehouses, parking areas and structures and antennas. The maximum height would be 250 feet. All other setback requirements of the underlying Heavy Industry zone would apply.

Steve L. Herring of Grantham said during the public hearing that he supported the rezoning because he knew that the company needed the additional rail space.

Herring said he knew of another company that had two mills, both of which were out of corn because the railroad company was holding the trains up.

"They say they don't have enough engineers to bring the trains in," he said. "I don't know if it is the union holding it up or what is holding it up. I asked them about going to Case Farms and borrowing some (corn), but they said they were in the same predicament. Golds-boro Milling needs this extra rail spur and this zoning approved so that they can put some extra cars of corn on the track in case this happens again."

Speaking on behalf of Goldsboro Milling, Henry Smith said the rezoning was not anything the company was doing to change its operation at the site.

"It is not something that they necessarily desire to do," he said. "What they are doing is expanding the railroad siding to handle additional cars and because of a requirement by the railroad to add a second elevator so they can move the grain off the car more efficiently, more quickly.

"This is something that Goldsboro Milling has been doing in this location for 50 years long before zoning. We are not exactly sure why the light industry zone was applied to Goldsboro Milling other than the height restriction that needed to apply for protection of the base. The height limitation, I believe, they proposed for this is 250 feet which is, I believe, 65 feet lower than what Seymour Johnson recommended. That will accommodate our modifications. This is important to Golds-boro Milling."

Smith said the company had begun the process, hiring an engineer before realizing it had to apply for the new zone. The people are on site and ready to begin, he said.

"As Mr. Herring indicated, this is urgent not only for Goldsboro Milling, but for the farmers in this county," he said.

County Manager Lee Smith said Herring had raised an important issue about rail lines.

"We have been talking with the rail system here in the county for many years," Smith said. "We need to continue discussion with North Carolina Railroad about investments in improving rails in this region. If we do not do that, what you are hearing today is going to happen because you don't have proper siding. You don't have the infrastructure as we have grown and these companies have grown.

"They have got to invest this money to improve these rails. We have to continue that fight also because these industries, without them, are going to dry up. If you meet with any rail representatives, urge them to invest in rail in this area."

Commissioner Sandra McCullen said she understands that the Goldsboro has "a lot of rail yard" that could be used.

"We have a good standing here in Goldsboro to maybe work on those projects," she said.