06/19/12 — Residents speak out against crime, rezoning

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Residents speak out against crime, rezoning

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on June 19, 2012 1:46 PM

There was no shortage of public comment at the Monday meeting of the Goldsboro City Council where more than 20 people took their respective turns at the podium addressing the council members on race relations, violent crime, a rezoning request and a conditional use permit.

The public comment period lasted nearly 45 minutes as nine citizens concerned about the spike in violent crime addressed the council, asking what could be done to prevent drug trade, gun fights and murders in the city's lower income areas.

Mayor Al King and District 4 Councilman Rev. Charles Williams offered suggestions, including starting Neighborhood Watches to help report crime and talking with Parks and Recreation about its programming options to help keep teenagers off the streets, but those at the podium were insatiable, saying that the council holds a different power and that there was only so much citizens could do.

One concerned speaker said the areas where Neighborhood Watches exist aren't the problem areas and others suggested the city impose curfews or require those out after a certain time of night to show identification.

King announced that he would be contacting those who came to speak to arrange a meeting where options could be discussed for improving the safety of the city.

"We're going to talk," he said. "I'm very much concerned about this. We're not going to stop it (the crime), but we can make it manageable."

But, as in previous meetings similar to this one, he pointed out that it was the vigilance of the community that would deliver safety. He said those who know criminals but don't report them are doing themselves and their neighbors a disservice.

"They are thugs and we need to recognize them as thugs and get them off the street," he said.

In other business, a dozen speakers came out to discuss a rezoning request for the southeast corner of the intersection of Ridgecrest Drive and North Berkeley Boulevard that had already been denied once by the City Council on April 16. The council granted the applicant a waiver of the six-month delay before resubmitting due to the acquisition of another parcel which would allow access to Summit Drive.

The Planning Commission recommended the initial approval of the rezoning request, which seeks to change the land's code from office and institutional to neighborhood business conditional district, on the condition that the site plan include a right-in/right-out access from Berkeley Boulevard to limit traffic on Ridgecrest Drive.

The council voted unanimously to deny that request, citing traffic concerns expressed at the March 19 public hearing during which three people spoke for and three people spoke against the measure.

Eight people spoke against the rezoning Monday while four spoke in favor of it during a public hearing that saw older property owners express concerns about everything from backing out of their driveway to possible crime rates due to the suggestion that a retail space or sit-down restaurant may open there.

One speaker even seemed to suggest that his breathing problems could be attributed to increased traffic in the area and another patted his convex stomach in front of the council, asking rhetorically if the city needed another restaurant.

"I don't think so," he said.

Even City Council Candidate Fran Kasey joined the discussion, suggesting that the rezoning would take a "nice, sweet neighborhood and turn it into an undesirable place" where people would not want to live.

She admitted she wasn't completely aware of the specifics concerning the rezoning request, but said she felt the zoning code shouldn't change.

After sitting down, she asked if she could speak again, but was informed by King that the rules concerning public hearings limit opportunities to speak to only once per hearing.

She defied him by standing and shouting from the audience.

"I was just going to say that there's already 35 restaurants between Ash Street and New Hope Road," she said before taking her seat.

The owner of the property, his wife and a representative from Faison and Associates, which owns Berkeley Mall and has represented the developer considering opening a business on the property if the rezoning is approved, spoke in favor of the rezoning, saying that progress in the city, especially along Berkeley Boulevard, shouldn't be limited.

A formal protest was filed along with the request, meaning the council must have six of its seven members to vote for it to approve the rezoning.

Steven Matthews, the owner of the property, also had another request on the agenda as he owns the former Matthews Motors property further south on Berkeley between Graves Drive and East Ash Street. He is seeking a conditional use permit to open a used car dealership there, which would exist alongside the current car wash that operates on the property.

Three people, including Matthews, spoke in favor of that request.

No decisions were made Monday. The Planning Commission will provide recommendations on the two requests at the council's July 9 meeting, following the Commission's June 25 meeting.