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Appears the interim director of Uptown Greenville has good knowledge of its operations. So let's look elsewhere, form a...

Council approves annexation despite overwhelming opposition

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District 4 Councilman Rick Smiley

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By Ginger Livingston
Staff Writer

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Greenville City Council approved the annexation of 390 acres located more than five miles outside the city limits, despite overwhelming opposition.

About 75 people attended Thursday's meeting to protest the request. Among the opponents were Pitt County Commissioner Lauren White and Pitt County Board of Education member Benjie Forrest.

Councilman Rick Smiley was the lone council member to vote against the annexation. Throughout the staff presentation and during the public hearing period, Smiley asked if any text in the city's Horizon 2026 comprehensive land use plan mentioned annexing noncontiguous property. Neither senior planner Chantae Gooby or the attorney and engineer representing the property owners could point to any text.

The five parcels annexed by the city are located where Hudson’s Crossroads Road intersects with Mills Road. Two of the parcels are on either side of Hudson’s Crossroads Road while the other three are opposite on Mills Road. The owners of the parcels are Carolina Eastern Homes of Morehead City, Carl W. Blackwood of Farmville, Ann C. Davis and James K. Cox of Greenville, RDP Management Consulting of Greenville and BMS Builders of Greenville.

It is estimated that about 1,300 people in 586 single family homes could live there, according to data provided by the city’s community development office.

The majority of the annexation's opponents focused their comments stormwater runoff and potential traffic problems.

Paul Blackburn, who lives in nearby Manor Court, presented photographs of flooding that occurred in 2016 and 2017 that affected his home and septic system. He said stormwater runoff from the development would worsen flooding in a nearby swamp and his property.

Ephraigm Smith, chairman of the Southeastern Drainage District, an organization that oversees the maintenance of rural drainage systems designed to aid farmers, said the area's drainage system was designed only for agricultural use and will be overwhelmed by the proposed number of homes. The system can't be enlarged, he said.

The city should implement zoning that increases the lot sizes of the future development to reduce the stormwater runoff, said Smith, a former Pitt County commissioner.

Forrest also raised concerns about the development overwhelming the area's drainage district. He also proposed the City Council adopt a policy to present future annexations to the school system. The school system's growth estimates do not calculate noncontiguous annexations into its population models.

White noted the property falls just outside a voluntary agricultural district, which promotes the preservation of agricultural land and alerts future home owners to the noise, smell and work involved in agriculture.

White questioned how long it would take police and fire-rescue to respond to the area.

Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman said it would take time to reach the area, especially during peak travel times.

"Will you get service as quick as any other part of the city? No, but you will get service," Holtzman said. He said the police department's response time to the area would be faster than the sheriff's office, which covers a larger area.

Jared Rundell and others who live in the area said increased traffic would increase congestion.

Rik Dicesare, city traffic engineer, said Mills Road current average daily traffic count is 4,800. Once fully developed, an additional 3,100 daily trips will be added, bringing the total to 7,900. Dicesare said Mills Road maximum capacity was slightly more 16,000 trips daily.

During his arguments against the annexation, Smiley read multiple passages from the Horizon 2026 plan that laid out its principles for growth and development and approach to growth. The passages he read focused on the desire for growth through development of the city's core in an effort to promote walkability and better mass transit.

Smiley said there was no language in the Horizons 2026 plan that promoted noncontiguous annexation, even though a map in the document showed the property in an area for future development.

Thomas Barnett, Community Development director, said the map is the same as written plan. The comprehensive land-use plan lays out a community's vision for its growth, he said.

The property became part of the city immediately after the annexation vote. The council went on to approve the requests rezoning the five properties from rural residential to residential single family.

The council postponed action on a request to annex property located near the intersection of N.C. 33 and Roosevelt Spain Road. Staff asked for the delay so they could further research the request.

Action taken during the Council's 4 p.m. workshop included:

A split vote directing Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman to rewrite the city's loitering ordinance. Currently police only can issue civil citations to individuals who are blocking sidewalks and refuse to move on. Holtzman proposed that blocking sidewalks be made a class 3 misdemeanor offense punishable with a $100 fine.

Councilwomen Rose Glover and Monica Daniels opposed the suggestion, saying they feared police officers might target African Americans. Glover said African American East Carolina University students often have no place to go because downtown night clubs won't allow them inside.

Holtzman said officers would only issue citations if people block travel along sidewalks and then don't heed police directions to move on.

Councilmen William Bell, Brian Meyerhoeffer and Rick Smiley voted to prepare the ordinance for later adoption; Glover and Daniels voted against it. Councilman William Litchfield didn't attend the workshop.

Staff was directed to arrange public input sessions on a proposal to change parking regulations, including requiring a flat fee to park after 10 p.m. in the downtown area. The sessions are tentatively scheduled for later this month.

Staff was directed to develop an ordinance to regulate the placement of dining furniture, seating and other items on sidewalks.

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