Rezoning request half complete

Published 10:30 am Friday, June 10, 2011

GATESVILLE – The heirs of the late Ray Freeman had one-half of their wish granted here last week.

The family requested rezoning two tracts of land off US 13 in the northern part of the county, from A-1 (Agricultural) to C-1 (Commercial). The parcels are located across the road from one another, one in-between US 13 and NC 37 and the other on NC 37.

Parcel #1 (44.5 acres located between US 13 and NC 37) gained the rezoning approval of the Gates County Board of Commissioners. However, Parcel #2 (59 acres due east of NC 37) ran into a rezoning obstacle as ownership of a tiny portion of that property is in question.

Speaking on behalf of his family, J. Ray Freeman III said the heirs discussed the possibility of having the land rezoned for commercial use shortly after International Paper closed in nearby Franklin, Va., resulting in a high number of lost jobs, including ones for Gates County residents.

“We wanted to see what could be done in Gates County for the betterment of the county,” Freeman said. “We decided to put this land in the commercial stage.”

Prior to public comments being taken on the rezoning request, Commission Vice Chairman Kenneth Jernigan expressed concern over a small portion (an 80-foot by 20-foot) of the Freeman heirs property that was in-between two existing residential lots, according to a map provided to the commissioners.

“Could that be left to sell as residential,” Jernigan inquired.

“We wondered how that (small part of the property) came to be,” Freeman answered. “No, we will not develop that little piece of property into something else.”

“My concern is if you sell this entire 59 acre block, what if someone decides to park a bunch of equipment or vehicles, tractor trailers, over there between two residential lots,” Jernigan noted. “That bothers me.”

Commission Chair Graham Twine said it was to his understanding that the 80-by-20 foot lot was being used as a pasture.

“The neighbors in that particular area are using it with our good will and that good will continue on,” Freeman said.

Freeman added that the family’s primary concern over possibly leasing or selling the property for commercial development is how it will look aesthetically.

Upon the opening of the public hearing, the ownership of that 80-by-20 foot lot came into question.

Carrie Favor, who owns property adjacent to the Freeman’s 59-acre tract, said the deed plat she had on her property does not show a property line for the 80-by-20 foot Freeman lot.

“Are we disputing the ownership of that particular piece of property,” asked Commissioner Jack Owens.

“The PINS (Property Identification Numbers) are not parceled off on the Freeman property; I’m confused on why it’s drawn up differently than my plat,” Favor said.

“We go by the survey and by the maps that are on file in the (Gates County) Register of Deeds Office,” Freeman noted.

Ann Ballard spoke up and said the small parcel of property in question was owned by her parents, the Matthews.

“Any legal issues regarding property lines do not need to be determined by the GIS system; they need to be determined by what’s on record (in the Register of Deeds Office),” said Renee McGinnis, Gates County’s Tax Collector.

“I do not see any way we can approve parcel number two right now with all these questions over who owns what,” Twine stressed. “Something’s not exactly right here with these PINS. This looks like a legal issue to me.”

Freeman said a survey on his family’s property was performed years ago, showing the inclusion of the small parcel now in question.

Other than the question of actual ownership, Commissioner Johnny Hora asked Favor if she had any problems with the rezoning of the property.

“The only thing that concerns me is the lighting and a buffer zone,” she replied. “But there could be other concerns based on what is being planned for that property.”

Another adjoining property owner, Ben Goodman, spoke during the public hearing.

“I don’t know if I have any objection to this at this point; I just need some more information,” Goodman said. “Maybe it’s none of my business, but I want to know what is planned for that area before I give my blessings.”

“We don’t have anything particularly in mind at this point; our first step was to get the property rezoned for commercial use and we’ll go from there,” Freeman responded.

Commissioner Henry Jordan suggested to Goodman to look at the county’s zoning ordinance, which defines all the permitted uses of a commercial district.

“The table of permitted uses section of this ordinance will give you a good idea of what could go there,” Jordan noted.

“I just want to know what’s going there so I’ll know if it will adversely affect my property or not,” Goodman stated.

After closing the public hearing, Twine said it was evident to him that the board could take no immediate action on Freeman Parcel #2.

“It looks like there is an issue there with the property lines,” Twine said. “I can’t see us taking any action on that parcel until the issue has been resolved.”

Pitt Godwin, who serves as legal counsel to the Commissioners, agreed.

“If there’s a conflict in the title, that needs to be looked in to; each side needs to have a title examination done,” Godwin suggested. “It may take a new survey (to settle the issue).”

In regards to Freeman Parcel #1, Jernigan motioned to approve the rezoning request with Hora offering a second. That measure was approved without objection.

The board tabled the rezoning request for Freeman Parcel #2 until such time the property line issue is resolved.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal