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Gates County launches US 13 corridor study

GATESVILLE – The door leading to commercial development along a stretch of US 13 in Gates County has been kicked open once again.

This issue, debated by county leaders over the past year, has returned to the forefront. At last week’s meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, a motion was approved to have the county’s planning board to closely study the matter.

The latest round of local government discussion on the issue centered on William Townes who had earlier this year made a request to rezone 4.5 acres of A-1 (Agriculture) property located along US 13 to a combination of R-1 (Residential; 2 acres) and I-1 (Industrial; 2.5 acres).

As noted by Gates County Planning and Development Services Director Randy Cahoon, Townes’ request would definitely constitute illegal spot zoning.

“He (Townes) was informed at all meetings I held with him that the chances of this rezoning being granted were slim to none,” Cahoon said. “The request is not consistent with the 2003-04 CAMA Core Land Use Plan for Gates County. The future land use map shows this area best suited for agricultural pursuits or for conversion land.”

Following suit at its July 15 meeting, the Gates County Planning Board, in a 6-1 vote, agreed that the request represents illegal spot zoning. As such, they failed to approve the rezoning as requested.

However, at last week’s commissioners’ meeting, the discussion turned to the future possibility of commercially developing the US 13 corridor. Interim Gates County Manager Justin Hembree suggested the planning board needs to examine possible changes to this corridor and make recommendations back to the board of commissioners.

Among the zoning options the planning board could study were mixed use and commercial use, according to Hembree. He said the latter would be for economic development.

“There has been a great deal of discussion about commercial use on the US 13 corridor, from the (Chowan River) bridge to Tar Heel Barbecue,” Cahoon said. “I agree that we need to study a mixture of uses there.”

Cahoon added that those uses need not to rule out residential.

“This is a high traffic area that could serve as a commercial and residential corridor,” Cahoon said. “The planning board needs to study this over a period of time.”

When asked what that period of time could be, Cahoon said, “two to three months in order to review all the factors.”

Hembree said if US 13 was eventually widened, as is being planned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the county could look at special use or conditional use zoning areas along this corridor.

“If we don’t take action on this today, it’s going to come back up tomorrow,” Kenneth Jernigan, Vice-Chairman of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, said.

Jernigan made his comment into the form of a motion to allow the planning board to further study the issue. Commissioner Carlton Nickens offered a second and the motion passed without objection.