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Northampton Commissioners approve rezoning decision

JACKSON – After postponing their decision last month, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning proposal at their meeting here on Monday, Dec. 7.

The vote—which was motioned by Commissioner Geneva Faulkner and seconded by Commissioner Kelvin Edwards—passed unanimously.

As previously reported by the News-Herald, the rezoning proposal covers 10 parcels of land, totaling approximately 611 acres. That land is located on both sides of Cherry Tree Road, which is just off of Highway 46 west of Gaston.

With the vote of approval by the commissioners, those parcels will now be zoned as Agricultural Residential (AR) instead of their previous Agricultural Residential Watershed (AR-2) designation.

The landowners requested the zoning change in order to allow a solar farm to be built on the property. Solar facilities are listed as a permitted use on AR parcels but not under AR-2.

SunEnergy1, which has constructed numerous solar farms in eastern North Carolina, will be in charge of this project. According to their website, this will be their first solar facility in Northampton County. They already have facilities in Hertford, Bertie, and Gates counties.

The rezoning decision was postponed last month after Board Chair Charles Tyner raised concerns that citizens didn’t have more opportunities to ask questions or provide comments about the proposed rezoning. He suggested that a public hearing should be held at the Planning Board meeting before the decision comes to the commissioners.

“Personally, I’m not opposed to any changes as long as the citizens in that community say fine,” Tyner said at the November meeting.

Northampton’s Planning and Zoning Director, William Flynn, stated their office had notified all adjoining property owners—about 40 in total—by certified mail, but he agreed they could assess the procedure for the future.

At Monday’s meeting, Flynn gave a follow-up report about what they’ve done since the last meeting.

“I sent out another notice to adjoining landowners inviting them to send questions and concerns to me through phone calls and emails,” he said, noting that two people had reached out in response.

Flynn emphasized that he would answer any questions that citizens may have regarding zoning decisions.

“We care about people and their property,” Tyner stated, adding that he liked to see more citizens get involved.