12/12/11 — Franklin Baking not yet ready to expand

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Franklin Baking not yet ready to expand

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on December 12, 2011 1:46 PM

Despite talk at a September Goldsboro City Council meeting, there are no plans for expansion at Franklin Baking on West Grantham Street.

Wayne County Development Alliance Vice President Mike Haney said during a public hearing Sept. 19 that the company's corporate owner, Flowers Foods, was seeking a location for a regional distribution center and that Goldsboro, with its position in the center of the Virginia-Carolinas region, had emerged as a top choice for the center.

The discussion came as a result of a rezoning request by Franklin Baking asking that the company's four parcels of land at the northwest corner of the West Holly and North Virginia streets intersection be zoned for general industry rather than residential. The rezoning was denied without prejudice at the council's Nov. 21 meeting, which would allow the company to apply for conditional district rezoning without being required to wait six months.

Because rezoning requests don't require submitted plans for future use of the land, residents near the subject property were concerned about the company's intentions when the change was first proposed. Five concerned residents spoke at the public hearing on the rezoning, asking that the request be denied.

Those opposed cited the noise and exhaust from trucks as being detrimental to their home life. Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen suggested a discussion between residents and company workers to help ease the tension, and those gathered there seemed content with the idea.

Haney followed that discussion with his distribution center talk, but he said Dec. 1 that there weren't rigid plans.

"For that particular property, there is no plan for it at this time," he said. "Over the years, Franklin Bakery has acquired several lots on West Holly Street and North Virginia Street. The intent is to have zone continuity, to have them all the same."

The company owns seven parcels at that intersection, with three zoned for general industry and the remaining four for residential.

Haney said he was simply pointing out that Franklin Baking's location would make it a viable option for a distribution center if one were proposed and that the rezoning would make the option all the more lucrative.

"I don't know if this is something that they were talking or thinking. I don't know anything about the stage that Franklin Baking is in. It just so happens that with our location -- and sometimes location is the most important factor when you're taking a look at an opportunity like that. You're looking at eastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina as well as part of Georgia so I think our location would be in play with something like that. There's no specific project right now for that particular property," he said.

In an economy where cost-cutting is the focus of nearly all companies, Haney said it was important for the city to be ready with the zoning in case the company was interested in expanding its Goldsboro operations.

A long-term approach to being ready for anything was the factor that led to the request, said Tom Buffkin, president of Franklin Baking.

"We're just zoning it so we can use it someday in the future," he said. "There's absolutely nothing on the drawing board. (A distribution center) is not on the immediate horizon at all. We might have a need for it in the future, and we want to have it zoned correctly."

Haney applauded the council's wisdom in allowing for the conditional district rezoning and hailed it as a "great compromise."

"They want to continue to be a good neighbor," he said of those working at Franklin Baking. "They would never think about doing something that was not right for the neighborhood."

And the conditional district rezoning will preserve restrictions on the property use no matter if the property is sold, he said, meaning the neighbors wouldn't have to fear changes in the future.

"In the event that the property would ever change hands, that owner would have to meet the conditions required to build something on the property," he said, adding that his organization wanted to ensure the area was ready just in case of future developments. "We're assisting in the readiness for any opportunities that will come down the pike. Proper zoning is the readiness piece whether it's next year or 10 years from now."

Sally Johnson in the city's planning department said the company requested conditional district rezoning of the properties the day after its rezoning request was denied. The conditions stipulate that any building plans on the site would need to be approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council. A public hearing on the conditional district rezoning is scheduled for Dec. 19.