Preserving agricultural feel a priority for people at bypass workshop
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
WINTERVILLE — “Grass and trees — that’s it — grass and trees.”
“Cows — lots of cows — and Shetland ponies.”
Theses were a few of the visions people shared on Monday during a workshop on a pending land-use plan for the area surrounding the new Southwest Bypass.
Organizers said about 60 people turned out during the first two hours of the three-hour event, held at Pitt Community College.
Pitt County government, along with Greenville, Ayden, Winterville, the Greenville Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the North Carolina Department of Transportation are developing the plan with the assistance of Stewart, an engineering, design and planning firm with offices in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte.
The bypass is expected to open the summer of 2020. The land-use plan will center on five interchanges along the bypass route starting at Statonsburg Road to the north and continuing south to U.S. 13/Dickinson Avenue Extended, Forlines Road, N.C. 102 and N.C. 11 south of Ayden.
The proposed land-use area extends from the bypass interchange with Statonsburg Road to just south of its interchange with N.C. 11 South.
It’s eastern boundary falls along N.C. 11 South and its western boundary is along Ballard’s Crossroads and Rountree Road.
Maintaining the agricultural feel of the area is important, many people said.
“We farm and we want to see the agriculture nature maintained. This is how all three of us make our living,” said Donna Williams, who attended with her son, Worth, and brother, Mike Worthington. The family grows farm tobacco, corn and soybeans in the area. If the area is opened to development, they expect to see families selling farmland, especially families whose adult children aren’t farming.
They also wanted to know about a plan to extend Fire Tower Road to Forlines Road, where one of the five interchanges for the bypass are located. No one had any details.
“Anything that heads west we’re interested in because we live west,” Worthington said.
Mike Skinner, who co-owns Strawberries on 903, has lived in the Renston Historic District since 1983.
“I would like to see as much of it stay in its original agricultural setting,” Skinner said. “I want something that in 30, 50 years, when my grandchildren ride through the area, they’ll recognize it.”
As more families leave farming, Skinner said he knows they think selling to developers is the best use of their land. But most landowners in the Renston area are committed to preserving their land, he said.
“I think with proper planning they can do it in a conservative way. They need to listen to what people in the community are saying,” Skinner said. “I know when we get near the municipalities they’ll feel different.”
Winterville Town Councilwoman Veronica W. Roberson said she wants to preserve her town’s ability to grow.
One land-use map had areas next to Winterville marked as conservation spaces, she said.
“Green spaces are important, but I don’t want to limit growth by devoting too much land to it,” Roberson said.
She also wanted assures that no highway access is built along the road and that the interchanges remain the only entrances and exits.
“I don’t want to build a bypass and it become like N.C. 11,” she said. “It was supposed to be a bypass, now look at it.”
Jim Bryant questioned how much development was possible because large swaths of land aren’t suitable for septic tanks.
His wife Zennie, her sister, Madge Thompson, and their brother-in-law, Joe Nelson, already have lost property to the actual bypass. They want as little development as possible.
Landon Weaver, acquisitions and development manager for Bill Clark Homes, said water and sewer services should be extended to the area, allowing for denser, cluster-type subdivisions.
“It leaves more open spaces in communities,” Weaver said. The county has a lot of conservation areas that have remained intact and cluster-type development can preserve those areas, he said.
However, Weaver said more industry, jobs and utilities are needed to support that development.
Marty and Laura Corbett live on Rountree Road. She doesn’t mind housing developments, but she wants neighborhoods with uniquely designed houses on large lots. She said she hopes any future plans address safety issues the intersections of Reedy Branch and Davenport Farm roads, Davenport Farm and Frog Level and Thomas Langston and Davenport roads.
Stewart, the consulting firm, had multiple stations set up. Representatives gave participants stickers to place on displays illustrating different types of commercial and residential development.
They also presented four categories of development. Rural preservation would encourage modest development focused around the interchanges. The “New Horizons” scenario would include more industrial development. Mixed used and traditional neighborhood development would be used to create “gateways” into the towns. Conservations areas would be set up along Swift Creek.
The “Plans/Trends” scenario assumes development patterns traditional to bypasses; commercial and industrial growth along interchanges with residential neighborhoods — mainly reliant on well water and septic tanks — being widespread.
The “Business As Usual” scenario would not change existing zoning rules.
A second public input session will be held in June, said Eric Gooby, Pitt County senior planner. The final plan should be finished in late June.