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Commissioners deny commercial rezoning request


By Ginger Livingston
Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Pitt County Board of Commissioners voted against a rezoning request on Monday, despite one member's argument that voting no denied her constituents much-needed retail development.

Commissioner Mary Perkins Williams was the lone board member to vote against a motion denying Happy Trail Farms its request to change 28 acres, located near the intersection of N.C. 33 West and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, from rural residential to general commercial.

The commissioners said the change was incompatible with the county land-use plan because the property wasn't near existing large-scale commercial development and does not properly separate the area from nearby residential property.

Perkins-Williams said residents in the area would welcome a commercial development, adding they would like to see a businesses such as a pharmacy, dollar store or auto parts store.

"We are the most underdeveloped district in the county and this is the first opportunity we've had since I could remember (that the area) is being considered for commercial development," Perkins-Williams said.

Mike Baldwin of Baldwin Design Consultants represented Woody Whichard, Happy Trail Farms' owner, at the meeting. Baldwin listed five intersections in the Greenville area that allowed commercial development away from the intersection.

Planning and Development Director James Rhodes said Baldwin's examples were not relevant because the intersections in question had developed businesses. The N.C. 33/MLK intersection has no businesses operating in the already-designated commercial zone.

Rhodes said he thought pursuing a neighborhood commercial zone on a smaller parcel of land would be more suitable.

"All the things Ms. Perkins-Williams has mentioned, I think would fit nicely in five acres. Twenty-eight acres is a large area," Rhodes said. "If you've been past the site, it's a large farm field. We just don't feel it's needed in that neighborhood. Twenty-eight acres is just an expansive area and it would be years in the horizon before it's developed."

Commissioner Chris Nunnelly asked Baldwin if the owner be open to phasing in development.

"It would be very stubborn on our end, very shortsighted to say no; there's no give and take," Baldwin said. However, he said he would have to consult with Whichard.

Nunnelly asked Rhodes if five or 10 acres would be suitable for neighborhood rezoning. Rhodes said five. Perkins-Williams said she didn't think five acres would provide enough parking space, especially if more than one business wants to locate in the area.

Baldwin said he believed Whichard would want to rezone at least 14 acres.

After voting down the rezoning request, the commissioners urged Baldwin to resubmit a request for a smaller area.

Following the meeting Baldwin said Whichard wants to rezone the property so he can market it to commercial developers.

"You have to start at first base to get around home plate," he said.