07/29/12 — Ridgecrest rezoning ends monthslong battle

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Ridgecrest rezoning ends monthslong battle

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 29, 2012 1:50 AM

It was always going to be a contentious rezoning request.

There were grumblings in 2005 when the Goldsboro City Council rezoned the residential lot at the corner of North Berkeley Boulevard and Ridgecrest Drive for office and institutional use. Residents felt commercial development there would threaten the tranquility of the neighborhood along Ridgecrest.

So when the idea of rezoning the property again, this time for neighborhood business, was floated, property owners of the adjacent lots filed a formal protest.

Traffic and noise pollution were among the concerns raised, especially since scenarios being presented involved retail sales and a possible restaurant, leading the City Council to side with residents denying the rezoning request April 16 with a unanimous 7-0 decision.

The residents had won, but it turned out that vote was only the first round in a monthslong battle for the zoning of that land parcel, pitting commercial potential against community values.

The property owner ended up winning July 23, as a second rezoning request -- this time with an additional lot giving the property driveway access to Summit Drive -- was approved 6-0.

Because of a formal protest filed once again by residents, the Council needed a supermajority, or six out of seven votes in the affirmative, to approve the measure.

But District 2 Councilman Bob Waller, who represents those residents, was not present for that vote -- an interesting twist in the rezoning process since the vote had been delayed two weeks earlier at the request of the applicant because Mayor Al King would not be present.

It was no conspiracy, however, Planning Director Randy Guthrie said, but just an unfortunate circumstance stemming from a late family emergency.

In the first scheduled vote July 9, with King absent, Guthrie said a representative of the applicant was notified ahead of time that there would not be a full board to vote on the issue.

That meant any vote against the rezoning would result in the request being denied.

Later, Guthrie received a request for the council to table the vote until the next meeting.

"He emailed me a little statement that said please table it until the next meeting," Guthrie said.

Guthrie shared that sentiment with the Council at the work session that night and the members all agreed to delay the vote until July 23.

Prior to that meeting, Guthrie again spoke to the applicant representative and confirmed the vote would take place that night.

Guthrie helped to set up the multimedia projector in the conference room ahead of the meeting and then left the room as the council entered into closed session to discuss a personnel matter.

When the council moved back into open session, Guthrie returned to the conference room to find that Waller was absent from the meeting.

The councilman was attending to his wife, who was ill.

Had he known ahead of time, Guthrie said he probably would have had a similar conversation with the applicant representative, but, as it stood, the council didn't raise any issues.

"If I had known, I would have asked," Guthrie said of his earlier conversation. "(The applicant) did not know that there was not a full board this time."

The measure passed anyway, but could have been denied with any votes against.

And the notion of the property being in Waller's district hadn't registered with Guthrie, he said, largely because the property was in District 6 until redistricting last year altered the district lines.