By Marsha Burney
The Bladen County Commissioners struggled to agree on two different issues Monday night.
On the first issue, Planning Director Greg Elkins presented the board with a consideration to rezone property located at 3785 Cromartie Road from residential/agricultural to commercial zoning. Elkins told the commissioners the Planning Board had met and made a “favorable recommendation” to rezone the property. He said the property owner, Daniel Nievis, wanted to put a used car lot on the property.
During the public hearing time, Shannon Ross spoke to the commissioners. Ross lives not far from the property under consideration, and she said she was concerned about safety, increased traffic, and nearby property values. Ross said she enjoyed being able to let her children play outside. “I want you to consider the safety of the children and young families who live on this road,” she said. She added that a business in this area would increase traffic coming into and out of the area.
“For us as property owners … well, you know your property value can increase or decrease by what’s around it,” Ross added. “Our land is agricultural land, and I’m concerned about the planning vision with this,” she said. Ross stated that she didn’t think it was a good idea to put businesses “sandwiched in between” residential properties.
Nievis, the property owner, also spoke to the commissioners. He said he wanted to put a “small office” where he could put “two or three cars.”
Commissioner Michael Cogdell asked Elkins if the Planning Board determined that this business “met all the requirements” to request the rezoning, and Elkins said it did.
Commissioner Ashley Trivette asked how many other businesses were in this immediate area, and Elkins answered there were “one or two others.” Then, Commissioner Trivette said, “We need to be very careful about where we want to zone commercial.” She added that she was 100 percent behind business development in the county but she thought the commissioners needed to be careful in rezoning a residential area to a commercial one.
Commissioner Arthur Bullock made a motion to approve the rezoning request, and Commissioner Cogdell seconded the motion. Commissioners Bullock, Cogdell, and Ophelia Munn-Goins voted in favor of rezoning the property in question to commercial, and Commissioners Trivette, Ray Britt, Charles Ray Peterson, David Gooden, and Daniel Dowless voted against the motion to rezone. Thus, the property will remain residential/agricultural.
In a second matter Monday night, the commissioners’ voted 4-4 concerning beaver management in the county. (Commissioner Russell Priest was not present at the meeting.) County Manager Greg Martin provided the board with an update regarding a USDA beaver management program. Martin told the commissioners that the county currently is in a $4,000 level of the beaver management program but that the next level costs $60,000. Martin said he knew it was a “big jump” from $4,000 to $60,000 and he therefore advised that the commissioners wait until the budget is finalized to make sure the county can afford the drastic increase.
Martin said the $60,000 level would provide for a full-time beaver trapper to be assigned to Bladen County through the USDA.
Commissioner Cogdell said he wanted to make a motion that the board approve the $60,000 “…tentatively until we see the [budget] figures on July 1.”
Board Chairman Peterson said that Cogdell’s motion would not really accomplish anything because the “tentatively” wording didn’t allow the commissioners to make definitive plans to hire this individual until they were assured the funds would be there to pay the salary. “The $60,000 also is for one person, and it’s going to be a long process,” Chairman Peterson said about the plans to eradicate the beaver problems. “He’s going to have to jump from farm to farm to farm,” he added.
Chairman Peterson said, “I want to do something about the beavers, too, but this close to budget time, I think we need to hold off.” He said it would take until July to set the budget and it would also take about that long to get the paperwork in place to hire a beaver trapper through this program.
Commissioner Cogdell made the motion to hire a USDA trapper at $60,000, and Commissioner Munn-Goins seconded the motion. Voting for the motion were Commissioners Cogdell, Britt, Bullock, and Munn-Goins. Voting against it were Commissioners Trivette, Peterson, Gooden, and Dowless.
“We’ll live to talk about it another day,” Chairman Peterson stated.
In other business Monday night, Chairman Peterson said he has set a meeting regarding the Kelly Dike issue on March 19 at 6 p.m. at the Centerville Baptist Church in Kelly. He said it was a public meeting, and he had invited the Army Corps of Engineers, our congressional and legislative representatives, the Kelly Dike Board, and other interested stakeholders. “Come if you will,” Chairman Peterson told the commissioners.
Planning Director Elkins also gave the board an update concerning the 2020 Census. Elkins said the county was in “the early stages” of the next census. He gave the board a detailed timeline for the census process and reviewed the purposes of it. Elkins said the commissioners needed to begin thinking about a “Complete County Committee,” and he recommended the commissioners choose “…people who are active in the community to be on this committee.” He said there were approximately 25 people on this committee for the 2010 census.
“The biggest thing is getting the word out,” Elkins said about the upcoming census. “We need to let everyone take ownership in the census.”
Commissioner Britt said a lot of people don’t take the time to fill out the census but that it equated to money for the county. County Manager Martin estimated that it averaged between $6,000 and $7,000 per person per year (over the course of the 10-year period) for every person who is counted in Bladen on the census. By Constitutional law, population counts determine the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives apportioned to each state. Additionally, census data is used for distribution of federal funds, redistricting of state legislative districts, forecasting future transportation needs, and determining areas eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans.
Terri Duncan, Director of Health and Human Services for Bladen County, also appeared before the commissioners. Duncan said she had very recently received preliminary notification that the county’s Department of Health will likely receive accreditation “with honors,” but the final decision on accreditation would be made on May 10. Duncan, who just recently took the helm of the Department of Health, said her department’s staff had done a “phenomenal job” over the last four years.
Chairman Peterson asked Duncan to thank all of her employees on behalf of the county commissioners.
Duncan said April is “Public Health Month.”
Bladen Director of Emergency Services Bradley Kinlaw gave the commissioners an update on Hazard Mitigation Grant programs for Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence. Kinlaw supplied detailed information about the number of homes that were in the process of approval for acquisition, elevation, and/or reconstruction due to hurricane damage. Though the property owners were identified through FEMA, Kinlaw’s department has reached out to all of them to apprise them of their options. Kinlaw said he would continue to update the commissioners as this process is ongoing.
At County Manager Martin’s recommendation, the commissioners set a planning session for March 21 at 10 a.m. The location will be determined later.Share: