The rezoning of someone’s property is not an action to be taken lightly, noted Rockingham City Councilman Bennett Deane recently as the city’s elected leaders considered a request that would have allowed the expansion of a mobile home park.
In the end, the council voted unanimously against the rezoning, in large part to protect a major investment made by the city and Richmond County, which brought public water and sewer to the land adjacent to Interstate 74.
To reject the rezoning was the right move.
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).
The property consists of two tracts: one includes four duplexes, and the other 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.
During a public hearing, two neighboring property owners spoke against the rezoning request.
Deane told the applicant he sympathized with him. Other councilmen also pointed out their vote wasn’t anti-mobile home, but a move to protect the investment for what the future holds; they’re betting on major commercial development in that area.
While no commercial development has been drawn to that location thus far, it will eventually happen, said council members.
“I think the city needs to protect its investment,” Councilman Steven Morris said. He added that he has nothing against mobile homes, but believes the business zoning ought to stay put.
“It may not happen right away, but it will happen … and we need to plan for the future,” Deane agreed.
Deane also said it’s not the best practice for officials to “down-zone” a property.
City staff pointed out the current business zoning was applied to the land in June 2001, when the city extended its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) to include the area around the U.S. Highway 74 Bypass/U.S. Highway 1 South interchange.
Planning Director John R. Massey Jr. said the city and county spent more than $1.1 million to extend water and sewer to all four sides of the interchange. Sewer service was extended to the area in 2002 as part of an effort to facilitate commercial development, he noted.
Investing in the future is smart. Being able to accomplish that in these lean economic times — through working hard to earn grant money to make it happen — is impressive.
The best leaders are the ones with vision, who can see things that have not yet occurred but are destined to unfold.
It made perfect sense for the city and county movers and shakers to spend that money a decade ago, and it makes perfect sense for today’s leaders to protect that investment.