City ‘comfortable’ with position on new jailPublished 1:05am Thursday, March 28, 2013
By MIKE VOSS
Washington Daily News
Washington Mayor Archie Jennings and the City Council are “comfortable” in the city’s position regarding locating a new Beaufort County jail at the Beaufort County Industrial Park.
The city’s position is it does not dispute the need for a new jail but does not believe it should be located at the industrial park, which is jointly owned by Beaufort County and the city. The mayor and council are somewhat miffed the city was not consulted on where to locate the new jail, if one is built.
The industrial park is in the city limits. City zoning regulations could prevent the new jail from being located there.
“According to the City of Washington’s Table of Permitted Zoning Uses, Correctional Institutions are not allowed in the 1-2 Zoning District as a permitted or a special use. Therefore, the proposed county jail is not allowed as a use in the Industrial Park,” reads a memorandum from John Rodman, the city’s planning and development director, to the mayor and City Council.
“If I could just offers this up as a summary position on where we are right now, I think, based on the work of that John did, some of the work we saw from the city attorney, it’s pretty clear that either from a restrictive covenant or zoning standpoint — not to mention joint ownership — that this can’t happen without the city’s input in the process,” Jennings said. “With that said, we all know there’s a lot of political back and forth going on at the county level where this decision belongs. I would submit that we rest comfortably in our position. There’s been some contact — welcome contact — with individual county commissioners. I think we are better served to remain confident and comfortable in our position around our ownership stake and our zoning regulations and, essentially, field inquiries from the county when we think it’s appropriate. Is everybody comfortable with that?”
“Sure,” replied Councilman Bobby Roberson, with the other council members indicating their approval of that approach.
Councilman Doug Mercer said it is his understanding that city officials and county officials were to have met this week to discuss the issue. He asked if that meeting had occurred.
Jennings said that meeting tentatively had been set for Tuesday evening, but it never occurred.
“Essentially, Tuesday evening would not work. We asked for another date, and we got another Tuesday evening, which doesn’t work for the same reason,” said Jennings, who did not provide that reason. “We’ll work on a date.”
Roberson said it takes a vote by the Economic Development Commission to allow the jail to be located in the industrial park before the jail can be built there because of restrictive covenants concerning the industrial park land.
“Right. That’s a little vague because of the reformation and restructuring of the EDC and so forth. Obviously, it’s not currently staffed or comprised the same way it was when the rules were written,” Jennings said. “At the same time, we have a considerable investment, a deeded interest there in the industrial park. I’m pretty comfortable with where we stand. They’ll come talk to us sooner or later.”
“I hope so,” Roberson replied.
Councilman Richard Brooks said the city should keep an open mind about the proposed jail site and be willing to listen to what the county has to say concerning that site.