Busco Beach zoning decision deferred
By Matt Caulder
Published in News on July 1, 2013 1:46 PM
Jimmy Pierce, the owner of Busco Beach, points toward one of several lakes located in the park. The recreation site near the Neuse River is one of the largest ATV parks on the East Coast, drawing hundreds of visitors each weekend. Pierce is seeking to have portions of the park rezoned by the city, with some neighbors opposing the move.
The Goldsboro Planning Commission deferred a decision to make a recommendation to the City Council on the proposed rezoning of Busco Beach controlled properties at its June 24 meeting citing the need for more information before a decision could be made.
The issue came before the Planning Commission after a lively public hearing on the rezoning at the June 17 City Council meeting.
The current petition, if approved by City Council, would zone all 17 parcels that make up Busco Beach as a General Business Special Use District like the original parcel was zoned 19 years ago.
Bryan Boulevard resident Yvonne Stanley spoke about the changes from how the park was originally approved in 1994 to what it is today and said that before any action is taken to approve new construction or rezoning, studies should be done on the impact to the wildlife in the area and the effect the park has had on the air quality and the Neuse River, which runs along the border of the park.
Ms. Stanley also said the facility now runs 24 hours a day in contrast to the 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule under which it operated previously.
At the meeting, Ms. Stanley said she reported suspected violations at the park to a myriad of state and federal agencies, which got involved in early 2012.
After a letter was sent to the city from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety outlining violations at the park, Goldsboro officials became involved to bring the park in line with the various regulations applicable to the use and structures on the property including violations of the city's Floodplain Management Plan.
Violations included buildings erected without "no rise" certifications to show the structures would not raise the floodplain; campers on the property, which is entirely in a floodplain, for more than 180 days; truckloads of fill sediment were brought to the property and grading was done without approval; and fencing on a county-owned parcel of land that is leased by Busco Beach.
A cease and desist order was given on all construction on the property in February 2012.
The order is in effect until all regulations are met and documentation is given to prove that the standards have been met.
Since that time, the Department of Park Safety notified the city in a February 2013 letter that the structures currently on the property meet Federal Emergency Management Agency "no rise" certification standards, but any proposed structures would have to go through the same verification process before they can be constructed.
Jimmy Pierce is the sole proprietor of Smart Investors LLC, which purchased Busco Beach from Jack Bennett in February 2012.
Pierce said Bennett is helping shoulder the cost of the rezoning and certifications associated with bringing the property in line with all applicable regulations.
Pierce is working through the systems in place to ensure everything is brought up to code and operations can continue at the park.
Since taking over ownership, he has instituted a 5 mph speed limit around the camping areas and placed signs around the park about safety regulations.
He has also increased the presence of emergency medical personnel and sheriff's deputies at the park on weekends as well as pulling in security personnel for special events.
Since 1994, the Busco Beach property has grown to 678.46 acres of land used for off-road riding trails, racing tracks and other amenities in addition to the originally approved use.
The original approval of the Busco Beach recreational facility was given in June 1994 after a public hearing and a petition from area residents against the approval was ruled invalid because none of the residents lived within 100 feet of the property, which is state requirement for a protest petition.
The closest resident to the property in question was 1,550 feet away.
The approval was given for 246.33 acres to be used as a recreational lake facility with related amenities.
The property had previously been zoned R-16 Residential and was rezoned as a General Business Special Use District.
Portions of the property are currently zoned for residential properties or mobile home residential properties.
Much of the land around the Busco Beach property consists of FEMA buyout properties due to flooding but none of the properties controlled by Busco are FEMA buyouts, city Planning Department Development Services Director Randy Guthrie said.
Guthrie said that usually a decision is only deferred by the Planning Commission if more information is needed and is only deferred once.
The Planning Commission will meet July 29 and should have a recommendation for the Aug. 5 Goldsboro City Council meeting, he said.
Guthrie said he believes a large part of the rezoning discussion will be devoted to conditions to go along with the rezoning to allay some of the residents of the area's concerns with the operation of the facility including the noise levels and dust in the air from the park.