Tuesday, 06 October 2020 20:51

Richmond County residents oppose CSX rezoning request

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CSX Transportation has requested the rezoning of 160 acres of its property on Marks Creek Church Road to heavy industrial, like the rest of its properties. CSX Transportation has requested the rezoning of 160 acres of its property on Marks Creek Church Road to heavy industrial, like the rest of its properties. Richmond County

ROCKINGHAM — Residents along Marks Creek Church Road north of Hamlet oppose a recent zoning request from the CSX Transportation.

The Richmond County Board of Commissioners during a Tuesday tele-meeting held a public hearing on a request from CSX for 160 acres of land to rezone property from rural-residential/agricultural to heavy industrial.

Roughly 110 acres are on the north side of the road and the remaining property is on the south side of the road, according to County Planning Director Tracy Parrish, who added that the request is to bring those parcels to the same zoning as the company’s adjacent properties.

The property is adjacent to the railroad and a state road for travel, according to Parrish.

The county Planning Board recommends approving the request, she said.

Parrish said she sent out 27 letters about the rezoning to neighboring property owners.

Several sent letters— read aloud by Parris and board Clerk Dena Cook — to the board asking questions about the use of the property and expressing concerns about the personal and ecological impacts if the request were to be approved.

One letter read by Parrish said the clear-cutting of the property by CSX prior to the rezoning request could give the perception that the approval is “a foregone conclusion, at least in the eyes of CSX.”

Those concerns include reduction in property values, contamination of ground water for those with wells, air pollution**, degradation of the roads, and excessive noise.

Neighbors were also worried about how industry would affect wildlife, like the near-threatened red-headed woodpecker, and livestock from nearby chicken farms.

One family said they have an apiary near the property line and were worried about the effect on their bees and the domino effects from colony collapse disorder, which has diminished bee populations in the past 10-20 years.

Members of Marks Creek Presbyterian Church also opposed the zoning adjustment.

(Note: since the meeting was held over the phone, the RO could not confirm the spelling of the names of those who submitted letters.)

In addition to the letters against the change, there were two in favor.

The first was from Economic Developer Martie Butler, who advocated for rezoning the property because it has access to the rail line and utilities.

She said the rezoning would give CSX the opportunity for continued growth in Richmond County.

The other was from CSX, which has owned the property since 1956. 

The majority of CSX’s property is already zoned for industrial use, according to the letter.

CSX officials say the property is “well-positioned for development.”

Commissioner Tavares Bostic questioned how much weight the letters from the property owners would hold in swaying the decision, since CSX already owns the property.

“All of these are real issues,” Bostic said. “Do we vote yes and just disregard the issues that they have or is there a healthy compromise?”

When asked if CSX has said what it intends to use the property for, Parrish said she didn’t have anything “on the table. Citing the UNC School of Government, she said the property owner (current or future) can undertake any use permitted under the new zoning regulations.

Commissioner Jimmy Capps agreed with Bostic and said the residents near the site of the rezoning have to be taken into consideration.

Chairman Kenneth Robinette encouraged his fellow commissioners to ride out to the area and check it out before making a determination.

County Manager Bryan Land said it could be an opportunity to provide those residents with county water, who have not been able to receive that service because of cost effectiveness to the county.

Since the public hearing was held remotely, residents have an additional 24 hours from the closing of the hearing to submit opinions for or against the rezoning request.

There will be another meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday to read those concerns and make a decision.

To join the meeting by phone, dial 1-415-655-0001* and enter the access code: 172 848 0827.

Earlier in the meeting, the board held a public hearing regarding a community development block grant for subsistence payments to those low- and middle-income households who are facing eviction or utility disconnection due to effects of COVID-19. The grant application is for $900,000, according to Health and Human Services Director Dr. Tommy Jarrell.

The board also voted to:

  • appoint Jarrell to the Sandhills Center Board of Directors;
  • approve a resolution designating Amy Fulp as an additional review officer for Richmond County, to review plats before being recorded by the Register of Deeds; and
  • approve a proclamation designating October as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

 *The phone number has been corrected from the original version of this story.
** Air pollution was added as one of the concerns.

Last modified on Thursday, 08 October 2020 14:08