AYDEN — Despite a plea from Ayden Mayor Pro-tem Ivory Mewborn, Ayden commissioners failed to approve a rezoning request that would allow for double wide mobile homes under special-use permits.

Commissioners first discussed amending the town’s zoning ordinance to include double wide — or Class B — manufactured homes at their July meeting. The town’s first participants in the Plant-A-Home program wanted to place a double wide on their lot.

The town-sponsored program provides families with assistance in obtaining town-owned land below tax value, which helps bring them a step closer to home ownership.

Tyronne and Jaime Taft were approved for a home loan and wanted to purchase a modular home, which was permissible for their lot. But due to the current housing boom and COVID-related delays, modular homes are a year out in construction. And their loan approval would expire before the structure could be delivered.

The family requested permission to place a double wide on the lot instead, asking for a rezoning designation.

But Planning and Zoning Director Stephen Smith said that allowing the parcels to be rezoned would create nonconformity with the town’s comprehensive land-use plan and spot zoning.

After discussion, Town Manager Matt Livingston suggested the town amend its ordinances to include manufactured homes by special use. This would allow for the town to decide on a case-by-case basis if manufactured homes would be permitted.

On Monday, Smith presented the text amendment allowing manufactured homes in the R-8, R-10, and R-12 districts during a public hearing.

“From a planning perspective, we choose to apply it to all zoning districts to be fair and equitable. It’s always good to have tools available to make changes in special circumstances,” Smith said.

“It’s just a tool that is there. It’s still going to be a case-by-case basis. It gives the board an opportunity and citizens who own property in a different zone the opportunity to make the same request.”

Mewborn shared a PowerPoint presentation on what the town was trying to to accomplish.

Showing pictures of deteriorating homes in south Ayden, Mewborn said the Plant-A-Home in general, and allowing the Taft’s home in particular, would give hope to the neighborhood.

“The vibe that is going out is that we are trying to put (mobile homes) all over town. That’s never been the case,” Mewborn said.

Mewborn also spoke about raising the community up, creating a more diverse Ayden and helping citizens dealing with slumlord landlords who allow for properties to become unfit to live in.

It is important that town information be sent to those living in the housing authority, so that people there can be a part of town processes and decisions, he said.

Mewborn said that since the board was predominately white, it was hard for them to understand the plight of African American residents

“It’s because they don’t understand the culture,” Mewborn said. “How is anybody on this board going to understand their plight? They never lived it.”

Mary Dail spoke during the hearing. She asked why the home would not be permitted, since the town placed two mobile homes in south Ayden with grant assistance. She also urged more people to find out who their commissioners are and become more active in town business.

Commissioner Johnny Davis made a motion to approve the text amendment and it was seconded by Mewborn. It failed with a 3-2 vote. Commissioner Raymond Langley, Davis and Mewborn were in favor of the motion, but it required a three-quarters majority to pass.

“When this board voted for the zoning ordinance they had reason for it,” Commissioner Phyllis Ross said. “I’m sure the reasons were good. We have to make a decision tonight. Are we being asked to go against what the planning board said? That’s’ actually what we are being asked to do. It came before them they voted against it.

“I feel for these people but there are other ways we can help them get what they need,” Ross said.

“I have no agenda other than doing what best for the citizens of Ayden,” she said. “It breaks my heart that I have to sit here and be accused of not caring. I do care. I care a lot about the citizens of Ayden.”

Commissioner Cindy Goff said she understood the struggle of the working poor, but felt there were other ways to build up the community rather than allowing manufactured homes.

“That’s when we plant single-family structures that meet the current zoning,” Goff said.

“I have been greatly embarrassed and shamed of the rhetoric that’s been shared here tonight,” she said. “That we on this board don’t make up certain members of the population. I cannot help who I am. I cannot help what my DNA or heritage is other than you can. But I was elected to represent each and every one of you. My decision are based on the fact — on the benefit of all, especially the working poor.”

Mayor Steve Tripp said he felt the comprehensive land-use plan provided the town with other tools to assist the family and south Ayden.

He urged a the formation of a committee to help address housing issues and urged commissioners to make it a priority.

Contact Donna Marie Williams at dwilliams@ncweeklies.com.