Saturday, July 13, 2024

‘I believe the average resident will not benefit’: Pender commercial site denied

(Courtesy Pender County)

PENDER COUNTY — Weeks after a property-owning firm overcame resident pushback to gain approval for a controversial industrial site in Pender County, the same company met a roadblock in its attempt to use more of its territory for commercial purposes.

READ MORE: Pender emphasizes economic growth over environmental concerns in approval of industrial site rezoning

Applicant and owner TW & AG Timber LLC requested a conditional rezoning of two parcels totaling approximately 6.21 acres near the intersection of US 17 and NC Hwy 210. It would add to the company’s 59-acre industrial site near the intersection of Malpass Corner Road and Porter Road in western Pender County that commissioners approved last month. The planning board rejected the 6.2-acres rezoning request in a 4-1 vote — board member Ken Teachey was the sole vote in favor —  at a meeting Tuesday. 

The rezoning would allow multiple heavy and light industrial uses including machinery, equipment rental, and septic tank related services.

The property is currently in the general business district and was formerly used by boat service and storage firm Carolina Outboard. The applicant’s attorney Sam Potter said United Rentals Inc. — the largest equipment rental company in the world — and a new company related to Sneads Ferry Tire and Auto were proposed tenants lined up for the site.

Board member Margaret Mosca noted the general business district is meant to allow commercial uses that serve nearby residential developments. She argued septic services should go in a less residential part of the county than the downtown Hampstead area.

Planning director Daniel Adams admitted the proposed conditional rezoning wasn’t “neatly within that category,” but supported conditions, such as an opaque, six-foot fence around the storage unit to remediate any conflicts of land use.

Mosca — who was one of two planning board members to vote against the applicant’s earlier request — also raised concerns the proposed septic tank services would include hazardous chemicals that risk environmental contamination. They include port-a-potty transportation and storage services.

TW & AG Timber owner Wesley Wooten assured the board United Rentals would abide by state environmental regulations.

“It’s going to look like any national company,” he said. “It’s going to be a big improvement over what’s there.”

Board member Damien Buchanan said he supported more industrial sites in the county but wasn’t certain the proposed area was an ideal location. Nearby residential complexes include Cypress Grove townhomes.

The portion of the site near Hwy 210 is currently at 11,000 daily trips with a volume of 17,375. Staff anticipates the industrial  site would add 92 daily trips, under the amount necessary to trigger a traffic impact analysis  — 1,000 daily trips or 100 trips in peak morning and evening hours.

Michael Moody — the only resident to speak at the hearing — voiced concerns the industrial site would increase traffic on nearby Peanut Road and cause noise pollution.

The proposed industrial would be about half a mile from a new school approved by commissioners in December; traffic concerns dominated the planning board discussion of the development. 

One resident described NCDOT’s 2021 statistics of the area as “severely outdated” and another warned about dangers of the Hwy 210 and NC 17 intersection. NCDOT spokesperson Lauren Haviland told PCD a number of improvements are planned for the intersection including near-side signal heads in all directions. 

Adams told PCD the school development will require a traffic impact analysis that may lead to widening of Hwy 210.

While projected increase in traffic was not a central point of discussion Tuesday, Mosca noted she wouldn’t want to frequently drive by a port-a-potty storage facility. She argued residents may occasionally rent small equipment, but most would not be interested in renting a portable toilet. 

Potter said he’d already worked with staff on the proposal for months and thought it was unlikely they would be able to come up with satisfactory conditions if the request was denied. He asked the board to condition their recommendation on prohibiting the port-a-potty business rather than outright reject it, but Mosca opted to raise a motion for denial.

“I believe the average resident will not benefit from this site being developed this way,” she said.

Notably, widespread residential concerns about nearby industrial contaminants were insufficient to prevent TW & AG Timber’s rezoning request last month. Staff recommended waste uses for that site as well, although both commissioners and the planning board prohibited it as a condition for approval.

Pender County spokesperson Brandi Cobb told PCD the applicant does not have any other pending applications. 

PCD reached out to Wooten — who also owns septic service company Lewis Farms & Liquid Waste Inc. — to ask if they would revise the plan before another rezoning attempt and if they were considering any other industrial projects in the county but did not receive an answer by press.


Tips or comments? Email journalist Peter Castagno at peter@localdailymedia.com.

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