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Waynes Farm proposal concerns Mocksville community

By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Generations of families who live near the Depot and Williams streets area of Mocksville are used to dust.

Feed mills have operated in the vicinity for just as many years, and more recently, a concrete company.

So when Wayne Farms, new owners of the old J.P. Green Milling Co. property, proposed for a rezoning to expand operations, those residents took notice.

Wayne Farms had applied to rezone about an acre (site of the former Martin Brothers Hardware) from town center to special purpose. Part of the special purpose wording got their attention. That zoning is for businesses with a greater than average impact of fumes, noise, smoke, etc. The current mill site is already zoned special purpose.

After a public hearing last week, Mocksville Town Board members decided to wait a month for Wayne Farms to meet with those residents to see if they can work out differences.

Sharon Anderson presented a petition with 150 signatures opposing the request, and spoke on behalf of the Davie NAACP. They disagree with the town planning board’s 3-1 vote that the rezoning would be “reasonable” and “in the public’s best interest.”

“Many elderly and otherwise challenged individuals live in this neighborhood,” she said. They would like the courtesy of knowing what to expect.

She asked for an environmental impact study, and that the board delay its decision.

Thomasine Gaither recalled her days of working in the area, saying dusting had to be done several times a day because of the fallout from the nearby grain mills. “I don’t know why it’s so necessary to wake a sleeping giant,” she said. “This could be a civil rights thing, but tonight, it’s a human rights thing.”

She said it would be interesting to know if other Wayne Farms facilities are in predominately black neighborhoods. “We just want everything to be equal,” she said.

Edward Demmy said the area is primarily residential. “I think this is an area that should be preserved as residential. I wish Wayne Farms the best, but I wish them the best somewhere else.”

Alice Brown said residents of the area mostly didn’t know about the proposal, and were surprised when learning the definition of a special purpose zoning. “There needs to be more research. My desire is that you defer … and that Wayne Farms sit down with residents … to be re-assured that our quality of life is supported.”

Eleanor Brown lived in the area for years, as did her family. “We would dust in the morning … at lunch time … and that’s in the house with the windows closed.” Nothing was said then because “everybody wanted to keep the peace on Williams Street,” she said.

She said that if the new mill produces a quarter of the dust as the old one, people’s health will suffer. The dust could easily reach downtown, she said. “I’m for Mocksville growing … but not at the cost of people’s health.”

Jody Cooley, Wayne Farms attorney from Georgia, said modern milling techniques will do away with much of the dust, and that the company wants to be a good neighbor. “This is not your parent’s feed mill.”

He said North Carolina has a special review when industry locates in a predominately minority neighborhood, and the state would contact these people before issuing a permit. The state would not, he said, look into it without the rezoning.

He pointed out that there has been a feed mill on the site since 1911, and that if allowed, the company will hire 18 full-time employees. It would pay an estimated $110,000 a year in taxes after a $14 million investment.

“Most of the comments I’ve heard are legitimate and there will certainly be a place for these conversations. We welcome that process.”

“I would like to see a whole lot more information,” said board member, Amy Vaughan-Jones.

“We do not want to be in communities that do not want us,” Cooley replied.

Mayor Will Marklin asked about potential dust problems.

“We don’t think it will generate significant dust. There will be residue at the railroad cars and on the ground, to be collected daily at the site,” Cooley said. “We think you’ll be proud of the development.”

Cooley pointed out that with the concrete plant, “it’s a dusty place now. It’s an industrial site.”

The company could operate the current mill, just not expand. Cooley said he didn’t know if Wayne Farms would continue in Mocksville if the expansion isn’t allowed.

The state’s study, he said, would require conditions that “minimize those impacts.” “That corner will look a whole lot better than it does right now.”

Board member Brian Williams said the company owes it to the community to tell them specifics of potential impacts. “We have folks who are speaking from the heart. We have to listen to that,” he said.

The public hearing is expected to be re-opened at the board’s Sept. 7 meeting, after company officials meet with area residents.