Rezoning request hits hurdle: Approval could come next month

Published 11:46 am Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A rezoning request was rejected by the Washington City Council during its meeting Monday, but it could be approved by a simple majority vote at the council’s first meeting in February.

On its first reading, the request failed to win approval after a 3-2 vote by the council, with Mayor Mac Hodges breaking the tie. Although Hodges and council members Richard Brooks and Larry Beeman voted for approval, a super majority of the votes cast was needed to approve the request after its first reading. Voting against approval were council members Doug Mercer and William Pitt.

Councilman Bobby Roberson, a real-estate agent, was excused from voting because of a possible conflict of interest.

The Planning Board discussed the request to change the zoning classification from residential (R9-S) to office and institutional in December and unanimously voted to recommends its approval. The council has final say on changing zoning classifications in the city.

Robert M. Leggett and Belinda Gail Leggett of Greenville submitted the application for the rezoning, according to a city document. Robert Leggett spoke briefly Monday, saying the group he represents wants to build a child-care facility on part of the property what is near Washington High School. That facility would be accessed from Slatestone Road, according to Leggett. The group plans to buy the property from Fortescue Investment Group, which is based in Washington,

The request ran into opposition during the Planning Board’s meeting in December.

Louis Martin Jr., who lives adjacent to the 6.49 acres, opposed the request. He voiced concerns that some of the permitted uses in an O&I zone are not compatible with the adjacent residential area. Martin also said he was bothered by not being notified (by letter) of the request until the Thursday before the Dec. 15 meeting, saying it was insufficient time.

Martin did not speak at the public hearing on the matter Monday, but another resident who lives near the property in question did. Benjamin Kifer said he and his wife recently purchased the property at 107 Slatestone Drive.

“We bought this particular property, again by God’s grace, hoping that we would be surrounded by people that we could grow and thrive with and grow to love in that particular neighborhood,” said Kifer, minister of Grace Lutheran Church. “It seems like the placement and the changing of this zone, that the zoning here, might be in conflict with the residential area that is there. We’re worried about the doors that this might open for future possibilities of building and what might happen there and the safety of the neighborhood. The question that I put before you is the rezoning consistent with the plan of the city in a long-term way, if it’s not necessarily consistent with the plans of the people who seek to grow and thrive in the city of Washington. … We’re concerned about the rezoning and what might happen in the future if the zoning is changed next to our neighborhood.”

Mercer said the some of the land uses allowed in in O&I zones worries him somewhat, noting some of those uses might not be compatible next to a residential area.

“If it were next to my house, I would not be happy,” Mercer said.

One of the possible uses in an O&I zone is multi-family dwellings, Martin said at the Planning Board’s meeting last month, indicating such use would not be compatible with the single-family dwellings already in the area. He also expressed concern that other permitted uses such as banks and restaurants would not be compatible with the adjacent residences.

Martin said he and some of his neighbors have no objection to the 6.49 acres being used by its owner in ways that “would not contribute to reducing the intent of the original R9-S zoning to our neighborhood or his property.”



About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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