Former Franklin resident cautions against Camp Parkway development

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To the Editor:

Dear Mr. [Dallas] Jones and fellow members of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors:

Although I currently live in Richmond, I am a native of Franklin and graduate of Franklin High School, Class of 1966. Along with my sisters, I own the property at 1501 Clay St., where my father currently resides, which is only several hundred yards from the property now under review for a zoning change. I come to Franklin often, having served on the board of The Camp Foundation for 32 years, and follow developments there closely. I spent several weeks there as a volunteer in the clean-up after the flood and personally drove the first vehicle out of the flood zone during the recovery.

I am personally very committed to the economic, social and cultural development of Franklin and Southampton County. Over the course of my 67 years, I have observed Franklin’s growth — in fits and starts — as the city and its immediate surrounds have grown into the county. Some of the plans have been written over time, and some have not. But they have always been well understood by the residents, the land owners and the developers who have assisted in that growth.

To outline those plans and actual development simply, the town has grown with residential slowly replacing agricultural to the north, along High Street extended and Hunterdale Road, to the northwest along Clay Street and Camp Parkway, and to the south out Pretlow Street. Residential growth has not been to the east, across the Blackwater (principally because of the historical “smell of money” from the Mill). And, over the past several decades, impressive growth in commerce and industry has been to the west out Armory Drive.

This has been a development pattern which everybody understood, and it has worked well for both commercial interests and residential interests.

It is with dismay that I see the Board of Supervisors considering a change to that pattern. The well-known path of residential development out the Camp Parkway, with a church and school to support it, is one of the best ways for Franklin to continue to grow and prosper. The current landowner understood this well, as he intended to develop the property in the same pattern. The current residents, who also speak for potential future residents, are adamantly opposed; and the Planning Commission had unanimous support for their concerns before the last-minute change of one vote.

The idea of an industrial/commercial development is a terrific idea for economic development of the area, and there are significant alternative areas for this to happen, principally out Armory Drive, where the community has planned and worked for such development to happen. So a rezoning on Camp Parkway must be viewed simply as a favor for an out-of-town developer, whose residential development plans are not coming to fruition in a time frame suitable for his financial interests. It cannot be viewed as a step in favor of economic development of the County, because there are other, more suitable places for this to happen elsewhere.

It is my sincere hope and strongest plea that the Board of Supervisors will recognize the long-term economic damage they can do to the area by placing an industrial/commercial interest in the middle of the most prime residential growth area for future generations.

Please vote to preserve this opportunity for the economic, cultural and social growth of Franklin and Southampton County by retaining the current zoning on the property in question and directing this type of commercial/industrial development to the Armory Drive area. That plan has worked for generations, and it should continue to work for the future.

Waite Rawls