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NASHVILLE — Nash County’s planning staff has been asked to review and make recommendations on how the county should respond to an increasing number of requests to rezone rural property from R-40 to R-20 by developers interested in more dense residential growth.
County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robbie Davis asked for the review of the land development plan Monday after a proposed 25-acre rezoning to R-20 near Bailey drew significant local opposition during a public hearing. Since the review will involve the county planning board, commissioners agreed to table the request for 90 days until October.
Davis suggested taking a longer look at the R-20 trend after saying he was “torn” between residents’ desire to maintain the rural, agricultural nature of their community and the desire by developers to satisfy an increasing demand for housing in Nash County coming from Wake County, which would boost Nash’s tax base.
“We’re beginning to see more and more of these R-20 requests as Wake County residents grow into Nash County,” he said. “This board has to decide over the long haul what we really want for Nash County. We’re at a time when we need to give the staff some direction.”
The R-40 single-family residential district requires lots of at least 40,000 square feet. The R-20 medium-density residential allows lots of 20,000 square feet, about half an acre. The two zones also differ in that some uses allowed in the R-40 are prohibited in the R-20 zone, particularly double-wide manufactured homes.
L&F Farms submitted the rezoning request for a 25-acre agricultural tract northeast of the town of Bailey on the south side of Stony Hill Church Road between Juniper Road to the west and Chapman Road to the east. The planning board gave the request its stamp of approval.
County planner Adam Tyson said the tract was previously part of a request in May to rezone 188 acres from R-40 to R-20 conditional use, but that request was withdrawn.
The smaller request is to allow the construction of 50 homes of 2,000 square feet valued at $200,000 and related infrastructure by Cecil Williams of Elm City, who was also said to be interested in eventually developing the entire 188 acres.
Williams told commissioners that he needed to develop two homes per acre “to make the numbers work.” He said his intended homes would generate $1,300 each in property tax revenues for the county.
“As we all know, growth is coming this way from the Triangle,” he said. “I think it is to the benefit of the county to rezone this property.”
A host of residents in the Green Pond area, where the proposed subdivision is located, lined up to oppose the rezoning, citing increased traffic, policing, schools, sanitation, environmental and safety issues. They said it would completely change the area’s character.
“I am unaware of anybody from the Green Pond community who supports this,” said attorney Michael Eatmon, a resident of the area. “What they’re proposing is to be such a density as to radically change the character of our community.”
Noting that Williams had discussed plans for the much larger development, Eatmon said, “You could have a town as large as the town of Bailey right in the middle of Green Pond. This is radically out of character with the current community. It will cease to exist as such.”
Commissioner Fred Belfield asked Williams if he could compromise and seek a R-30 rezoning with 30,000 square-foot lots.
“We want to have half-acre lots,” Williams said flatly.
After the hearing, Davis expressed his concerns. Belfield said the board needed to act “one way or the other,” but the other six commissioners voted to table the request for 90 days.
“We’ve asked staff to review rezoning in Nash County moving forward,” Davis announced.
In other business, commissioners didn’t take much time to reject a request for the county to allow businesses to sell beer and wine earlier on Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. instead of 1 p.m.
The request was made by Eastern Petroleum Corp., which owns and operates 12 convenience stores under the name EP Mart. Seven of the stores are in Rocky Mount, which allows earlier alcohol sales on Sunday, and the company asked the county to liberalize its rules so one of its stores on Old Carriage Road would not be at a competitive disadvantage.
“I’m opposed to this,” said Commissioner Wayne Outlaw. “I think we have plenty of time now to purchase alcohol.”
He suggested the company apply to Rocky Mount to annex the store into the city.
“I’m opposed to it, too,” said Belfield. “We have a problem with alcohol.”
Davis agreed but said he also wanted to support the local business.
“I don’t want to do anything to promote the sales of alcohol,” Outlaw countered.
The board voted 4-3 to deny the request to allow earlier Sunday alcohol sales. Davis and Commissioners Mary Wells and Sue Leggett supported the request.