Public hearing leads to further deliberation

Published 10:38 am Saturday, April 16, 2016

A public hearing  was held on Thursday night regarding the rezoning of property on Camp Parkway. -- REBECCA CHAPPELL | The Tidewater News

A public hearing was held on Thursday night regarding the rezoning of property on Camp Parkway. — REBECCA CHAPPELL | The Tidewater News

The Southampton County Planning Commission held a public hearing on Thursday night regarding what is known as the Camp Parkway Project. Several people stood up to voice their opinion and ultimately led the commission to vote to wait until the next meeting to further deliberate on the matter.

The property is 438.71 acres on the north side of Camp Parkway, which extends behind Riverdale Elementary School, and from the school east to the Franklin city limit and from Camp Parkway north to the railroad tracks on both sides of Delaware Road.

Currently, the property is zoned as A-2, Agricultre and R-1, Residential. Hampton Roads Development, L.L.C. is requesting the property be rezoned to CM-1, Conditional Limited Industrial with proffers.

The roughly 100 people attending the meeting listened to presentations made by deputy director of community development Beth Lewis and the lawyer representing Hampton Road Development, L.L.C. Will Holt.

Both explained that the project included a concept plan, proffers and design guidelines to permit distribution and industrial uses in 13 buildings. They said that the concept plan provides parking for the buildings, a rail yard along the northern boundary, stormwater management facilities, a trail and landscaped buffers along the Camp Parkway boundary and abutting Riverdale Elementary School. Most notably, they both spoke on the fact that the project would be at no cost for the county.

When the public hearing opened, 27 audience members stood up to voice their opinions, although not everyone had the same feeling on the project.

Twelve out of those 27 people stood up and expressed why they feel this a wonderful opportunity for the county to grow.

Holt Livesay, although a resident of Franklin, pays taxes in Franklin and Southampton County.

“That’s what this is all about, an opportunity,” he said. “If we are going to survive … we’re going to have an increase in the tax base … It sounds like a wonderful idea to me, I support it.”

Greg Scott added that, “Growth is a very important thing, especially for our youth here, they need something to look forward to. This could be one of those opportunities.”

Jim Strozier spoke in favor of the rezoning from his personal views and on behalf of the Franklin-Southampton Chamber of Commerce as he is the current president. He addressed the traffic concerns that he knew many had.

“Traffic associated with this project will be making a turn less than 2,000 feet from the school,” he said. “This means they will be slowing down to turn or accelerating coming from a complete stop…both of those conditions ensure that the truck traffic will not be traveling at highway speeds when they are going past the schools.”

Chairperson of Southampton County Public School Board Deborah Goodwyn said that on behalf of the school board, they support this project and they have determined that will not jeopardize the safety or learning of the schools and it will not affect the retention of students and teachers.

President and CEO of Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Amanda Jarratt explained that this is a tremendous opportunity for the area.

“The rezoning of this property will offer real estate product not currently available in the Franklin-Southampton area,” she said. Our support for the camp parkway commerce center rezoning project stems from the fact adding an additional site for development this size will allow us to compete for even more projects. Sites this size are limited across the state.

“Our community is at a crossroads. We can either choose to grow tax-base with new investment and try provide opportunities for our residents or we can choose not to,” Jarratt added.

On the other hand, the presentations left some people with concerns and feeling like the project seemed too good to be true. Although it was apparent that everyone there shares the goal of wanting Southampton County to grow, expand and have economic development, several don’t believe the rezoning of this piece of land is the answer.

Carol Majors came to the podium and asked questions about the roads and where the money was coming from to improve them.

“Are they going to pay for the new roads? How much does it cost to put in a new road” she asked.

Jeff Brown said that the thing he was most concerned about was the traffic.

He noted that a comparison had been made between the schools on Route 58 and the school on Camp Parkway. However, he felt that there was no comparison between the two based on the type of roads and traffic patterns.

Ann Gayle, owner of River Birch Farm Equestrian Center, spoke on how this project would ruin her business.

“This proposed project will put River Birch Farm Equestrian Center out of business,” she said.

Gayle added that she would lose boarders and riders because people ride horses to get away and be in the quiet. The noise and trucks from the proposed industrial park would ruin that.

Kathleen Brown spoke on several of the concerns she has, including traffic and the proffers. She noted that she used to be a truck driver and she knows that trucks won’t slow down just because they are in a school zone. She went on to explain that they will wait until the last minute to get on the breaks.

She also said that as someone who lives across the street from the school, it concerns her because she sees a line of cars everyone afternoon trying to get into the school to pick their kids ups.

“ The development organization offers all these proffers,” she added. “It almost sounds too good to be true, that the county will have to pay nothing.”

Jim Hart added that although someone beforehand had spoken on behalf of the Franklin-Southampton Chamber of Commerce, his views on the rezoning were quite different.

“One gentleman mentioned that he was speaking on behalf of the chamber of commerce….I’m just here to tell you that as a chamber member, not all the chamber members are support of it. I know several that are not.,” Hart said. “Please vote no on the project as presented, it’s way too vague.”

Jane Riddick-Fries gave a speech that brought a round of applause from those who are against the project.

She started off by saying, “I’m passionately opposed to this rezoning request.”

She went on to say that back in 2003, the planning commission opposed having this property be zoned for industrial uses, that they felt it was residential. She explained that she doesn’t understand why all these years later, when the area has grown to include 31 houses, two horse businesses, an elementary school, High Street United Methodist Church and a Boy Scout Shack, they think it it suitable for industrial use.

Although several other comments were made throughout the course of the night, most in opposition to the rezoning shared the same concerns that citizens have voiced in the comments above.

When the public hearing was over, and no one else walked to the front to speak at the podium, the planning commission closed the hearing.

They then voted to make a decision at their next meeting in May.