Wednesday, August 4, 2021

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Commissioners adopt 12-month moratorium on new heavy industrial development in Snow Camp

Moratorium is viewed as prelude to future zoning in southwest corner of county

Alamance County’s commissioners have agreed to place a twelve-month moratorium on new heavy industrial development in Snow Camp in order to give the county’s planning department the time to fine-tune a proposed zoning system for this rural, unincorporated community in the county’s southwestern reaches.

The commissioners unanimously approved this moratorium today after a public hearing that drew 28 comments from area residents who were uniformly in favor of a stay on heavy industrial development as well as the prospect for zoning for Snow Camp.

[Editor’s note: the discussion ranged among several alternative time periods: 6 months, 9 months, and ultimately a year.  An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited 9 months, which was part of the discussion, but not the final time period approved by commissioners.]

Commissioner Craig Turner insisted that he and his colleagues had an obligation to vote on the moratorium today in light of the overwhelming support it had drawn among the public hearing’s participants.

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“I don’t think we can leave this meeting without voting on some kind of moratorium,” Turner told the rest of the county’s governing board. “The devil will be in the details. I think the moratorium. . . will give us an opportunity to look into those and make a perfect decision.”

The current membership of the county’s governing board approved this nine-month stay on new heavy industry roughly four months after its previous lineup gave its unanimous nod to a countywide land development plan that included a more focused, “small area plan” for Snow Camp. This plan, which suggests four zoning districts for the unincorporated community, will ultimately serve as the basis for the new zoning system that a consultant in the county’s employ will hammer out during the moratorium. The small area plan was, in turn, crafted in response to a furor that erupted in 2018 after the county’s planning department issued an “intent to construct” permit for a stone quarry off of Clark Road.

The proposed quarry, which has since obtained a state mining permit, won’t be affected by the newly-imposed moratorium. The twelve-month stay will nevertheless temporarily halt the approval of other projects that are currently regulated under the county’s ordinance for heavy industrial development. If the county goes on to implement the small area plan’s recommendations at the conclusion of the moratorium, it would mark the first time that zoning is imposed on any portion of Alamance County that lies outside the jurisdiction of its cities and towns.

The area covered by the small area plan is more or less consistent with the boundaries of the Snow Camp fire district. Tonya Caddle, the county’s planning director, concedes that the area doesn’t extend nearly as far north as the edge of fire district and includes some territory that lies farther east.

Before they signed off on the moratorium, the commissioners discussed the possibility that they may not ultimately impose zoning on all of the property within the area under consideration. John Paisley, the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, conceded that he’s heard from some farmers who would be happy to have their own land omitted from the section of the county that’s zoned.

“I know they have not called in or sent any emails [for today’s public hearing],” he added, “[but] I’ve heard from so many farmers out there that want no zoning at all…The idea of a moratorium is really to study and develop a plan, and during the moratorium, we could redefine the area that’s subject to the plan.”

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