Rockingham considers zoning rule changes
by John Charles Robbins Daily Journal Editor
Rockingham officials are considering adopting zoning rules limiting where homeless shelters and soup kitchens can operate.
The issue was discussed Tuesday night at the regular meeting of the Rockingham City Council.
This action comes less than a month after a late night fire gutted The Baker House, the city’s only homeless shelter and soup kitchen. It had operated out of an old brick building on U.S. 1, just south of the downtown area.
Fire department officials said the blaze began in the building next to shelter, a vacant two-story building formerly owned by Privett Furniture Store. The fire weakened the walls and supports and burning rubble fell into the neighboring homeless shelter.
Some of the brick walls of The Baker House still stand as an empty shell along the highway. The Mental Health Society ran the shelter and soup kitchen for many years.
Although no plans have been announced about building a new homeless shelter or soup kitchen, city officials say now is the time to update the city’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to limit the location of that type of land use.
City Manager Monty Crump said the city’s Planning Board had reviewed a proposed amendment to clarify that “homeless shelters” and “soup kitchens” are a conditional use and allowed only in the Highway Business (B-3) zone.
The Planning Board unanimously recommended the City Council hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning amendment and adopt the amendment, Crump said.
Council agreed to schedule a public hearing on the proposal for its October meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Council members also agreed to hold a public hearing on that date on a similar proposal; an amendment to the city’s UDO to establish regulations for “unattended donation containers.”
The issue relates to numerous collection bins that began popping up around town, and in neighboring towns, requesting clothing and shoe donations. Some people were unhappy to learn that the donations, or money earned from the donations, did not go to benefit local charities or organizations.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council adopted several ordinances that make up a series of Community Development Block Grant projects, relating to the sanitary sewer system.
Rockingham’s Community Development Director Sandra Ridley prepared the paperwork, required by rules of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Council members adopted a Grant Project Ordinance for the 2012 CDBG Infrastructure Project for Marigold, Flowers Streets and Mill Road. This would establish the budget and appropriates the revenue for the sewer project in that neighborhood, Ridley said. It establishes how the city will spent a $726,298 grant on the sewer system in that area.
Council also adopted a Citizen Participation Plan, and a Residential Anti-Displacement and Relocation Plan, for three CDBG grants.
“No relocation or demolition of housing units is proposed in any of these projects but this is a CDBG program requirement to have a Plan in place,” Ridley stated.
In other matters, the City Council:
• Recognized and honored the girls of the Rockingham All-Stars, the Rockingham Ponytail State Championship Team which represented North Carolina in the 12 and under Dixie Youth Softball World Series in Bluffton, S.C., this summer.
• Listened as Mayor Steve Morris issued a proclamation marking Sept. 11 as “Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance,” in reference to the terrorists attacks against the United States in 2001.
— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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