Rezoning proposal defeated

Published 9:51 am Thursday, April 8, 2010

JACKSON — Talk of an asphalt plant shot down a request to re-zone a former truck stop in Garysburg.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners voted not to re-zone the 20-acre site, located near the I-95 and NC 46 interchange, as heavy industry.

During a public hearing, several citizens came before the board to voice their opposition to the re-zoning as well as the possibility of an asphalt plant being built on the site.

Northampton County Planning and Zoning Director William Flynn presented the item for consideration.

Barnhill Contracting Company, in agreement with the owners, submitted a request to re-zone the site from Highway Business to Heavy Industrial.

The property has public water, telecommunication services and three-phase electrical available.

“The soils on this site have been heavily contaminated from the previous truck stop activity,” said Flynn. “This contamination is reflected on the Property Records Card.”

Flynn noted that with the site still being contaminated it could not be used for a restaurant or a food processing plant.

He added at this time there is no application for the use of the property.

The Northampton County Planning Board agreed to recommend the re-zoning of the site.

Many of those opposing to the re-zoning cited numerous reasons from how it would affect tourism to the possibility of an asphalt plant being built on the property. Some pointed out that the asphalt plant may be a short-term business to allow the repaving and widening of two local roads.

Northampton County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Judy Collier and Tourism Development Authority Director Dick Collier spoke about the effects on tourism and economic development if the property was re-zoned.

Mrs. Collier said heavy industry was not what people wanted to see while traveling down I-95, rather a hotel or a restaurant. She asked to board to consider all of their options.

Mr. Collier said North Carolina ranks number five in clean industry and that’s the type of industry that needed to be brought into the county. He also spoke of the effects of heavy industry on tourism.

“If heavy industry goes on 95, no hotel or motel will consider it,” he said.

William White Jr., an attorney speaking on behalf of Carolyn Barton, said if the asphalt plant is to be built to repave US 158, it may not stay long term.

White also spoke about the effects the plant would have on Lowe’s Industrial Center and the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research (NCCAR). He noted that when the latter is completed every interchange in the area will be popular locations for hotels and restaurants.

“This is not where you want heavy industry to be,” he said.

Paul Sykes Jr. voiced concerns for Oak Grove Baptist Church which would be affected if NC 46 was widened. Commission Chair Fannie Greene noted that the widening of the road is being studied.

Sykes asked if the board would have any say so to an asphalt plant being built.

Flynn said the application for the property would have to come before the Planning Board as well as the commissioners.

Willie Allen was concerned about traffic in the area if an asphalt plant was built there.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins said traffic flow would be taken into consideration by the board.

Jenkins added that he was a firm believer in protecting community investments, including churches, and asked the board to consider the neighborhood. He recommended that the site not be re-zoned.

Representatives from Barnhill were also able share their side of the story.

Allen Barnhill said the company has 20 asphalt plants around the state and is looking to stay in Northampton County if they build such a facility.

“We’re not coming just for (US) 158, we’re looking to stay,” he said.

Lee Cooper noted approximately 50-60 jobs would come along with an asphalt plant in Northampton County.

“We would love to come to Northampton County,” he said. “But we don’t want to come if you don’t want us.”

County Attorney Charles Vaughan asked how much of the 20 acre site was contaminated.

Barnhill estimated 50 percent of the property is contaminated by fuel.

Commission Vice Chair James Hester said Economic Development Director Gary Brown indicated to him a couple weeks ago that there was another site in Garysburg that could accommodate an asphalt plant.

After taking another comment from the public, Flynn noted the reason for the public hearing and that there was no application for an asphalt plant.

“This is not a hearing for an asphalt plant,” he said.

Flynn added there is another asphalt plant within a half mile of this property.

“In light of the conversation we have had here today, to re-zone this property would be detrimental to this area of Northampton County,” said Commissioner Robert Carter, delivering a motion.

Hester offered a second and the motion was approved with no objections.