Rockingham council rejects rezoning request


First Posted: 7/10/2012

A proposal to rezone land in southwest Rockingham from business to residential, in order to allow additional mobile homes for rentals, was rejected Tuesday night by the Rockingham City Council.

After a public hearing on the request, council voted unanimously to deny the request, with councilmen noting the investment made by the city and Richmond County to extend public water and sewer service to that area — adjacent to Interstate 74 — to draw the interest of new business and industry.

Charles Seago submitted a request to rezone about 4.2 acres on the southeast corner of Old Cheraw Highway and Spring Street from Highway Business (B-3) to Residential Mill Village (R-7A).

According to a staff report on the request, the property consists of two tracts: one includes four duplexes, and the second tract includes a manufactured home park with five mobile homes established there as rental units. Seago has enough land to add four additional manufactured homes to the park. However, the park is a nonconforming use in the B-3 zone, and the ordinance doesn’t allow for the expansion of nonconforming uses. So, Seago initiated the rezoning request in order to make the current use of the property a conforming use, and to qualifying for a conditional use permit to expand the manufactured home park.

Seago and his property manager Larry Rainwater spoke during the public hearing in favor of the rezoning, and Seago was also represented by attorney Benny Sharpe.

Two neighboring home owners spoke in opposition to the rezoning.

On June 5 the city’s Planning Board reviewed the matter and unanimously recommend the rezoning.

In a report to council at Tuesday’s meeting Planning Director John R. Massey Jr. explained why his staff was recommending denial of the rezoning.

Massey said the city and county invested in the infrastructure for that area with the intention of encouraging commercial and industrial development in the vicinity of the interchange.

The city and county spent more than $1.1 million to extend the water and sewer to all four sides of the interchange, he said. “We want the area as a transition for commercial development,” said Massey.

Sharpe told the council the highest and best use of the land in that area is residential, noting the existing duplexes, mobile homes, and two newly-built single-family homes.

“Who’d be interested in putting a factory on Mr. Seago’s property other than Mr. Seago,” Sharpe said.

Also, if Seago were allowed to add more residential units to his property the county would be “rewarded” with additional taxes, said Sharpe.

Seago told the councilmen he understands the officials investing in the area with hopes and intentions of new commercial growth, but sometimes intentions are not realized.

Seago said he wishes there was interest in commercial development in that area, “because my property would be worth more.”

Arthur Steele, who told the council he lives across the street from the existing collection of mobile homes, spoke against the rezoning request. Additional mobile homes would diminish the value of his property, he said. Steele said the homes there now look “terrible” and are in disrepair, that the grass gets knee deep before it gets cut, there’s a lot of traffic in and out of the property and loud noise.

Another neighboring home owner, Kevin Helms, also spoke against the request. “He’s got enough trailers on there now,” Helms said.

Rainwater was allowed to return to the podium and he said they take good care of the property, the grass is cut every two weeks, and he didn’t want the council thinking the site was “sloppy.”

Councilman Steven Morris may have summed up the feelings of his fellow councilmen when he talked about the value of investing in future development.

“It’s imperative as communities that we prepare for the future,” Morris said.

While no commercial development has been drawn to that location next to the highway, it will eventually happen, he said.

“I think the city needs to protect its investment,” Morris said. He added that he has nothing against mobile homes, but believes the business zoning ought to stay put.

Other councilmen agreed, including Bennett Deane who said, “It may not happen right away, but it will happen … and we need to plan for the future.”

In other action Tuesday, the City Council:

• Approved the North Carolina Statewide Emergency Management Mutual Aid & Assistance Agreement. This agreement is the statewide agreement that covers both the receipt of and providing emergency aid and disaster assistance in the event of an emergency situation.

• Approved an agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation for improvements to the bridge over Hitchcock Creek. In May, city council entered into an agreement with NCDOT to purchase right-of-way and permanent easement for the bridge replacement at the Steele Street location. The agreement approved Tuesday night will allow the actual construction process to begin.

— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or by email at jrobbins@heartlandpublications.com.

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