by Brittney Melton
Greenville City Council’s April 9 meeting saw the easy conclusion of ordinances allowing live performance venues and craft beer sales downtown. One contentious rezoning on East 10th Street was continued until May, and council voted on another controversial rezoning request, this one regarding land South of Stantonsburg Road. Council also made the final appointments to the Comprehensive Plan Committee and selected a consulting firm to prepare the plan.
Council Partially Approves Land-Use Change Request Near Landfill
Happy Trail Farms, LLC requested rezoning for three tracts of land from residential and agricultural use to industrial (tracts 1 and 3) and light-industrial (tract 2) use. The property is south of Stantonsburg Road and west of the Pitt County Landfill.
The Southwest Bypass, a state road project currently in development, will bisect all three tracts. Forty percent of tract 2 is expected to become road.
During the public hearing, citizens raised concerns about the possibility of industrial spills running into Green Mill Run, which leads to the Tar River, and about environmental issues from the landfill.
City planners found rezoning for tracts 1 and 3 to be in compliance with the land use plan, but not tract 2. According to planner Chantae Gooby, tract 2 is recommended for office, institutional or multi-family use, not for light industry, as requested. Happy Trail representative Mike Baldwin argued that multi-family has a higher land value than light industry and offers the same “buffer” zoning as what was recommended.
In March, the Planning and Zoning commission approved tracts 1 and 3 for rezoning, but denied tract 2.
Knowing the state will purchase the land from Happy Trail, District 5 councilor Rick Smiley asked if the state/taxpayers will have to pay more for the property if the land use designation is changed.
Happy Trail’s representative responded, “The value would be higher but that is the enterprise system… I believe it is fair game.” Smiley said, “To whom? You are arguing that it is fair for the landowner, not the citizens of Greenville.”
D2 councilor Rose Glover, made a motion to approve only tracts 1 and 3. D1’s Kandie Smith seconded, and D5’s Rick Croskery supported. Smiley, Marion Blackburn (D3) and at-large councilor Calvin Mercer voted no. The mayor, who only votes in the case of a tie, cast the deciding vote to support the change to tracts 1 and 3.
Live Performance Venues and Craft Beer Sales
Council held public hearings on and unanimously approved adding live performance venues as an accepted land use downtown and allowing craft beer sales wherever wine sales are allowed. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved both rezonings in March (see our coverage of that meeting here and our analysis on live performance venues here).
A citizen speaking in favor of the zoning ordinance to allow live performance venues questioned the restriction on recorded music. For a theater to be considered a “live performance venue,” no more than 30 percent of its music can be recorded, a number Community Development Director Merrill Flood said could be changed in the future. “The reason we do not have so much recorded music,” Blackburn said, “is because we didn’t want this to be a place people go to party.”
Mayor Allen Thomas spoke roundly in support of the ordinance for the boost it would provide the city’s music and arts scene, “This is everything we need.”
Blackburn asked how the craft beer sales ordinance differed from the micro-brewery ordinance passed in August, 2014, permitting micro-breweries in the downtown commercial district. Flood said, “[Craft beer sales] is a retail operation that allows tasting on site; it is more of a retail establishment.”
Rezoning Request Continued after Protest Petition
A request from Ward Holdings, LLC to rezone a lot on East 10th Street near College Hill from medium density to high density, which would allow for apartment buildings, was pushed back to May. After their public hearing on the rezoning in March, the Planning and Zoning commission denied the request ina split vote.
During P&Z’s public hearing, six city residents spoke against the rezoning citing the property’s location in the flood plains as a compelling reason not to further develop the land. (Read P&Z commissioner Jerry Weitz’ op-ed on the city’s responsibilities regarding flood plains.)
A petition protesting the rezoning was submitted to the city on April 7 and was found valid on the same day. The valid protest petition will require a super-majority of council, or five out of six, to vote in favor of the rezoning request for it to pass.
Comprehensive Plan Committee Appointed and Firm Selected
Council appointed the final seven members of the Comprehensive Plan Committee, bringing the total to 22. This committee is responsible for the ten-year update of the Horizons Land Use Plan, a document that defines the way we use our land.
Council also voted unanimously to hire Clarion Associates, LLC, a planning and zoning consulting firm in Chapel Hill, to prepare the plan for $140,000. Cary, Wilson and Fredericksburg, VA are just a few of their comparable past projects. The consultant will meet with the Comprehensive Plan Committee between April and December to submit a completed plan for submission and adoption in January 2016.
Brittney Melton is a Senior year Communication major at ECU studying Journalism with a double major in Merchandising.
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