Letter to the Editor: County can stop Farmington Rd./US 158 industrial rezoning

Published 11:32 am Monday, May 31, 2021

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To the editor:

Business factors have heavily lobbied for zoning change at Farmington Road and US-158, as is obvious if you watch the video of the May 18 proceedings, and they have been successful at turning the planning board – despite the fact that of the residents who attended the March drop-in meetings there was a 60/40 consensus against the change, as was reported by the petitioner’s consultant, Stimmel).

A petition containing the signatures of dozens of more residents was given to the Planning Board on May 18th, but it appeared to be dismissed out of hand. The rezoning seems to not have been evaluated totally in light of the glaring plan error involved concerning the future land use (a map which did not appear during and after the initial planning by the Piedmont Triad Council, whose maps and figures are incorporated into the document). This egregious map seems to be the total premise of the final decision, albeit it is not consistent with the balance of the Comprehensive Plan and other county plans and strategies.

Prominent lobbyist(s) have been involved at each stage of the development, including the 2018 working group(s), and have intimated that the area in question has been coveted for industry for decades. This map, not forwarded as a recommendation, somehow became incorporated at the county planning level. This, in turn, allowed a Machiavellian full court press to accommodate industry despite the injury to the citizenry – the offending exhibit is at the end of the Comprehensive Plan.

Anyone checking the county website is directed to a hotlink which pulls up the zoning, exhibited as residential/agricultural – there is no caveat emptor referencing page 75. Major investments have already been made based on the shown zoning. A full economic analysis is most likely to reveal that residential/commercial mixed use will be of the best economic benefit to the county. Even the Piedmont Council analysis indicates that the best job potentials are 73 percent in favor of “other office, government, services, health care, and retail” (all of which service the local community in accordance with the County’s Growth Enhancement Strategy (2010)) as opposed to just 17% for industry.

In short, the industrial use will not be a jobs panacea, and, in fact, will stymie jobs in the current growth areas such as the service industry.

The county commissioners can stop this.

Section 160D-6.5 of the NC Planning and Development regulation requires the that governing body is to make “a brief statement explaining the reasonableness of the proposed rezoning.” This action is anything but reasonable since it violates almost the entire Comprehensive Plan (less the erroneous page 75) and was not, in its development, couched by an in-depth economic analysis to forecast which option would produce the best economic solvency indicators for the county (it was stated at the May 18 public hearing that no one knows what type of industry will come; so this action is just a swing at the pinata in hopes that something good will hit the ground. However, from potential benefit to the county financial indicators, this pinata is empty, an, indeed, negatively impacts the citizenry). This goes to the factors which must be evaluated of: (ii) the benefits and detriments to the landowners, the neighbors, and the surrounding community; (iii) the relationship between the current actual and permissible development . . . [and] why the action is in the public interest (section 160D-6.5 (b) of the regulation).

This inconsistency was created by heavy lobbying. The Comprehensive Plan erred in its future expansion development map inclusion on page 75 due to the applied influences. The question arises as to how the offending map came to be inserted into the Comprehensive Plan? How did it appear if it did not start with the Piedmont Council’s products?

The planning board’s 7/0 recommendation of May 18 to rezone is inconsistent per state regulation. County commissioners can take one of two courses of action as a remedy: return the action to the planning board to “defer the amendment for further consideration” (the action they did not take, and should have taken, for an in-depth economic analysis comparison of the alternatives); or, preferably, direct that the erroneous land use designation at page 75 of the Comprehensive Plan be corrected to become consistent with the balance of the plan and other policies and that the Comprehensive Plan be amended to that end (i.e., taking into consideration policies regarding rural lot subdivision and growth management in this future expansion corridor). The latter action would assure that the current action is incongruous since controlled residential and the supporting light commercial growth would become the preferred expansion of the corridor vice industrial as currently shown on page 75 of the Comprehensive Plan.

More job potentials, better community, and better housing opportunities in a convenient, growing location near schools – that is in harmony with county plans.

William Vaughan