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Rezoning paves way for church

AHOSKIE – Despite opposition, the Ahoskie Town Council unanimously approved a rezoning measure last week that will allow a new church to open its doors.

Following a required public hearing, the council voted 5-0 to rezone a 1.92 acre tract, located at 2123 US 13 South, from I-H (Industrial Heavy) to B-2 (Business). The owners of that property, Hunter and Teresa Sharp of Ahoskie, applied for the rezoning.

Prior to the opening of the public hearing, Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said the request did not constitute “spot zoning” since there were adjoining B-2 parcels.

“It is the hope of the current owner that the request for rezoning to B-2 would allow a broader use of the building,” Hammond said.

An investigation conducted by the Town of Ahoskie into the property revealed it is not inconsistent with other parcels in the same area, some of which have the zoning designation being sought.

While the investigation found no instance of spot zoning, the Ahoskie Planning Board, at its May 21 meeting, recommended that the town council deny the request. However, the council had other ideas, despite hearing opposition from three individuals.

“I’m not against churches, we could use more of them, but I feel this rezoning will affect future development in what is now an industrial area,” said Morris Freeman, representing F&F Properties.

“This is a tough call,” said adjacent landowner Stuart Pierce. “It’s difficult to see what will happen to this area as time unfolds. There are established businesses in an industrial setting all around this area. It’s a good place for a small industrial park, with (US) 13 right there. I feel we need to maintain an area for industrial and heavy business.”

Edgar Swain said there was I-H property all around the site in question. The B-2 property is across the road.

“Yes, there is B-2 property across the road, but you can’t use a road as a barrier to rezoning,” Hammond explained.

Councilman Ronald Gatling asked how a church, if permitted, would affect the surrounding businesses. The response came from William Bishop, who along with Katie Bishop, is looking to open the church.

“We won’t bother anybody,” Bishop said. “None of the other businesses will be open when we are in church on Wednesday nights and Sundays.”

At the close of the public hearing, Gatling motioned to approve the rezoning request. Councilman Maurice Vann offered a second and the measure passed without objection.