Supervisors overrule planners on subdivision

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2007

COURTLAND—In a rebuke to its Planning Commission, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning on Monday that planners had twice recommended denying.

Supervisors voted 4-2 to approve an application from O’Berry Associates to rezone a 20.54-acre parcel from agricultural to residential, which would allow the owners to develop 13 residential lots on the property.

Planners had opposed the request on the grounds that the seven shared driveways that would be added to Oberry Church Road and Black Creek Road would be a safety hazard. They also worried the development would be of an unsightly sort frowned upon by the county’s comprehensive plan.

Supervisors, however, pointed out that property on both sides of the parcel is already laid out in the so-called &uot;piano-key&uot; style the county wishes to avoid, leaving an orphaned piece of land that is too small to farm and too large to set aside for the average home.

&uot;This isn’t the place to start opposing piano-key development,&uot; said Newsoms District Supervisor Walt Brown, who found himself taking an ironic position in light of his own frequent and vocal opposition to such development.

Berlin-Ivor representative Ronald West said developers had addressed the county’s concerns about piano-key development by limiting the 13-lot subdivision to seven driveways.

Supervisors agreed that a preferable solution would have been — as suggested by Chairman Dallas Jones, who also serves on the Planning Commission — to use a portion of the property for a common road within the subdivision and make driveways connect to it instead of to the main road.

&uot;If you can cut 13 (driveways) down to seven, you can cut them to two,&uot; he said.

Assistant County Administrator Jay Randolph, who serves as the Planning Commission’s secretary, warned supervisors that a vote to allow the development would send mixed signals to future developers.

&uot;What I just want to be clear about is (this),&uot; he said. &uot;Is piano key development acceptable or not? At what point do you want to make a positive investment in the community?&uot;

Voting against the majority were Jones and Capron representative Moses Wyche. Franklin District Supervisor Walter Young Jr. was absent.