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Light industry welcomed in Northampton

JACKSON – There are no immediate plans for light industry to locate to an area adjacent to I-95 near the NC 46 interchange.

However, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners did open the door for that type of development here last week.

Following a public hearing, the board voted unanimously to rezone the rear portion (36.280 acres) of a 45.5 acre tract of land from highway business to light industrial. The front portion of that property (9.205 acres) – which sits along NC 46 across from Burger King – will remain zoned as highway business.

William Flynn, who serves as Northampton’s Planning and Zoning Director, said the front portion of the property will be impacted by the US 158 corridor project currently being proposed by the NC Department of Transportation.

Anna Jones, the current property owner, said she requested the rezoning to take advantage of any light industrial opportunities.

“My father owned this property for 40 years; I’ve owned it for 30 years and the opportunities are restricted with the highway business (zoning),” Jones said at last week’s meeting. “The land was farmed for the majority of those years until it was rezoned to heavy industrial and then to highway business.

“We’ve been waiting for something to happen with that property, but nothing has occurred so far,” Jones continued. “When I look at it now, the entire 45 acres isn’t configured properly for highway business.”

Jones added that she has discussed the rezoning request with neighboring property owners, and all are in agreement that light industrial may be the best answer.

“I can’t see highway businesses developing in the back part of this property,” Jones stressed. “Light industrial makes the best sense to me. My property extends back a half-mile from highway 46.”

When asked by Commission Vice Chairman Joe Barrett of any specific plans for the 36.280 acres if the light industrial rezoning was granted, Jones replied, “There are things on the table; I’ve been approached, but I’m not at liberty to discuss any options right now. I’m open to anything that may become available.”

During the public hearing, Lenn Woodruff Jr. – an adjoining property owner – addressed the board.

“We’re kind of like Mrs. Jones; we own property there and we’re open to anything that may come up,” he said, adding that his land is currently farmed. “If something comes there to help out the community and help out the county, we’re not going to fight it. Our county needs businesses; our county needs jobs.”

Flynn noted that this property was one of six parcels, all in the same general area, rezoned in 2012 from heavy industrial to highway business.

“That was done to provide some much needed highway business properties that could potentially be developed as such and to correct some properties that had been zoned incorrectly in 1994,” Flynn told the Commissioners. “NC 46 is a major artery and we were hopeful for highway business development there for the general motoring public.”

Flynn reminded the commissioners that if the rezoning request was approved, any uses in a light industrial district would be allowed to site on that property. Included among those numerous permitted uses are several dealing with manufacturing – bedding and carpet, clothing and textile, cosmetics, electrical appliance and electrical machinery, jewelry, leather products and luggage, machine tools, paper goods, pharmaceutical, and wooden products. Other permitted uses are preparation of food products (bakeries), bottling works, dairy processing, industrial trade schools, research testing labs, printing/publishing, distribution centers, electric substations, warehouse/storage facilities, federal/state/county government buildings (to include police or fire stations), biofuels facility, office space, airports/landing fields, and the assembly and/or manufacturing of emergency community support vehicles.

Earlier in the same meeting, Flynn presented another rezoning request, this one involving a small parcel of land (0.67 acres) located on the south side of the Blythe Road (SR 1202) just east of I-95. This request, made by Wesley Cashwell, was to rezone the property from highway business to agricultural/residential.

Flynn said this particular property was rezoned, against staff recommendation, in 2000 as highway business at the request of the former owner of the property to allow for the operation of a used car business.

“The minimum lot size for highway business property is 30,000 square feet,” Flynn told the Commissioners. “This lot is less than that – 29,185.2 square feet to be exact. Still it was rezoned by another board of commissioners back in 2000 and the used car business that operated there as the result of that rezoning was open only for a short period of time.”

Flynn went on to inform the board that the lot was best suited for a residential/agricultural zone due to its size.

“It’s surrounded by properties that are agricultural/residential; the lot can be put to better use to site a home,” Flynn noted.

As required, the issue called for a public hearing. There was no public opposition to Cashwell’s request.

The Commissioners, in a 5-0 vote, agreed with Flynn’s assessment and granted the rezoning request.

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.

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