Zoning board passes motion to rezone land

First Posted: 3/9/2009

DOBSON The Surry County planning board voted 5-3 Monday night to recommend the Surry County Board of Commissioners rezone a parcel of land adjacent to N.C. 268 east of Elkin from Rural Agricultural (RA) to Manufacturing Industrial (MI), against the wishes of about 30 people who opposed the move.
Planning board members said their recommendation was not for any specific industry to use the land, but was simply a matter of zoning the land for its best use. Those in opposition, however, said they believe the move is in preparation for the proposed Fibrowatt biofuel power plant.
The land voted upon by the planning board Monday night was purchased by Surry County last year for the purpose of luring industry to the area, said Chris Knopf, assistant county manager for economic development and tourism. Properties to the east and the west are both already zoned Manufacturing Industrial.
It goes back a couple of years. The Surry County Economic Development Partnership started looking for a new product land, Knopf said. He also pointed out that the property under scrutiny is flanked on the east and west sides by parcels of land that are zoned MI.
Chairman Wayne Draughn asked Knopf if there was any timeline for getting water and sewer to the site.
Knopf said a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation would provide $200,000 toward a water and sewer project that could cost as much as $1.5 million.
There is an existing industry further out that way that also needs water and sewer and without it, it could be a dire situation, Knopf said about the Wayne Farms property that adjoins the tract.
The tract of land board members voted on includes 117 acres that is adjacent to the Yadkin Valley railroad tracks and the Yadkin River. The land also sits between Wayne Poultry of North Carolina Inc. Feed Mill, located at 10949 N.C. 268 and Friendship Speedway, located at 11420 N.C. 268.
Draughn asked Knopf if any building permits had been issued for the land, and Knopf said no.
Knopf said that although there are many empty buildings formerly used for textiles available in the county, he said, many of them are not located next to a railroad, have access to water and sewer, or have access to natural gas.
A lot of these empty buildings that used to be hosiery mills dont meet the ceiling height requirements. There is a building right now in Pilot Mountain that sits on rail, but theres no natural gas, Knopf explained.
Draughn told Knopf that he had seen in news reports that counties all across America had been doing this sort of thing to lure industry. I think you all have done the right thing.
Draughn then told the crowd, This is not a public hearing, but we will let you comment for about 20 minutes. Lets not get bogged down, but since you made the trip, we will let you speak.
Opponents of the zoning change were vocal about three themes. The first was the quality of life issue. The second was the increased use of the already heavily used N.C. 268 and the third issue was environmental concerns.
Barry Carlton, the founder of Citizens for Responsible Economic Development, or CRED, was the first to speak.
This is the only legal document that governs how you should vote tonight, he said as he held up a copy of the 2015 Surry County Land Use Agreement. I know you need the jobs here, but when the economy gets worse, people will come here. Only one-tenth of one percent of people in Winston-Salem know how great Surry County really is. This is the only official document that was created two and half years ago. This calls for it to be used as a rural area, to be more vacant. This is your legal guide, your moral guide you are legally bound to vote based on this, Carlton said.
In speaking in regards to Fibrowatt moving into the land to be rezoned, Carlton said, This will take more jobs out of the area than it will bring in. It will take more money out of the county than it will bring in. We recommend denial. If Fibrowatt wants to move there then it should be under a conditional use, Carlton said.
Tom Lux of State Road stood at the podium and read off some of the industries that could use the land if it was rezoned MI, such as oil and gasoline bulk storage, paints, varnishes, finishes and manufacturing, explosives manufacturing and storage, fertilizers manufacturing and storage. The list was provided by the Surry County planning department.
Sam Tesh of State Road told the board that it would diminish the quality of life for Surry County residents to have the plant move to that location.
I would like to know how this will effect the people of Surry County. I also want to thank you for the land-use plan, Tesh said.
Bill Sober of Elkin said he lives in the first curve down from the race track.
I would like for you to consider leaving the area the way it is. My neighbors are deer, turkeys and coyote and sometimes skunks. I would like to see it stay the same or have something that is noninvasive. It would only take one accident for it to get into the river, considering that the Yadkin River provides drinking water for people downstream like Winston-Salem. It doesnt make sense for you to ruin a good piece of land when we can use other property in the county, Sober said.
Pat Caldwell and Clyde Caldwell spoke separately about the organic vineyard they own near the land.
When we decided to buy the land it was based on the land-use plan. We are the first organic vineyard in the state. We need to have clean water and clean air. This is a major investment that we made based on the assumption that we would be located in a rural area. We understand the needs of the county to find jobs, but it is a little strange how they go about doing things. We would like to please ask that you not accept the rezoning, Pat Caldwell told the board.
There are 22 wineries in the Yadkin Valley. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to move here. People are totally interested in moving here because of the wine industry. We have the only wine making school in the south here in Surry County. Please do not allow industry to damage the area. We are scheduled to go online here in the next couple of months. Wineries bring in 13 jobs per winery. Weve put our whole life savings into this. We would be happy to answer any questions that you may have, you can come drink a little wine, too, Clyde Caldwell said.
Lucy Chatham of State Road told the board that N.C. 268, is already too heavily traveled, this will just add to the problem of safety. Locating another industry on N.C. 268 is not the way to go. This will adversely affect the general public interest. Industrial uses are not appropriate for this site. I have a high regard for this board, I caution you not to sell it short. What may seem to be in our best interest, may not be in our best interest over the long-term use, Chatham said.
As Draughn asked for the comment session to close, Carlton spoke up from the seats in meeting room, We have a lot more to present in writing, Carlton said. Draughn encouraged him to submit it after the meeting.
Dean Naujoks, a Yadkin Riverkeeper, was allowed a few more minutes to comment. He told the board that kayaking has become a billion dollar industry and people are not going to want to paddle by a big smoke stack over and over again. They will go elsewhere, Naujoks said.
In the end, Melvin Jackson made a motion to approve the zoning change, Draughn seconded the motion. The vote passed 5 to 3. Freddy Hiatt, Jon Tucker, Curtis Taylor were in support of the rezoning motion along with Draughn and Jackson. Buck Buckner, Marian Spencer and Joey White voted against the change.
The vote is a recommendation, with the board of commissioners having the eventual say-so on the vote.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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