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Burlington planning board endorses rezoning for 173-acre industrial project in eastern Guilford County

Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has endorsed a request for industrial zoning on some 173 acres of agriculturally zoned land on the west side of NC 61 in Guilford County.

During its latest monthly meeting last Monday, the commission voted 4-to-1 to recommend the approval of this request, which seeks a limited use form of medium industrial zoning that excludes only one of the 57 uses that are ordinarily allowed, either by right or by special use permit, in a medium industrial district.

Nathan Duggins of the Tuggle Duggins law firm in Greensboro assured the city’s planning commission that the as-yet-unspecified project which would go up on this site would ultimately be a windfall for the surrounding community.

“We want to do a clean, industrial development at this site,” he explained during last Monday’s meeting. “We’re thinking about either a light manufacturing facility or maybe some sort of distribution. It would be a job creating, tax-base creating opportunity for the city of Burlington and for the county of Guilford.”

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Site unseen

Duggins conceded that a “theatre” is currently the only use that is omitted from his client’s rezoning request. He added, however, the city’s watershed regulations would ultimately forestall another 17 otherwise permitted uses from being developed. Duggins nevertheless stressed that the project’s developer deliberately wants to keep his options as open as possible at this point in time.

[Story continues below map of site.]

“We don’t have a user right now,” he said, “and, until we have a user, we wanted some flexibility around the use.”

Ian Phillips, the project’s would-be developer with the firm Crown Companies, reiterated the attorney’s remarks about the speculative nature of this proposed venture.

“This is a big project to go into without a user,” he said. “But it’s a chicken-and-egg thing; you have to have a zoned, ready-to-go piece of property before you have a user.”

Phillips added that the site in question would make an ideal location for “an employment center” as companies that have previously “offshored” their operations are beginning to bring them back stateside.


A question of “character”

Although located deep within Guilford County, the site of this rezoning request happens to be located on Burlington’s side of a jurisdictional divide that Burlington has previously negotiated with the city of Greensboro.

Duggins recalled that jurisdictional questions had loomed particularly large when his client held a neighborhood meeting prior to his appearance before the commission’s members. He noted that some of the more frequent inquiries among neighbors concerned the provision of public utilities. To this point, Duggins confirmed that Burlington intends to run water lines to the site while the city of Greensboro will probably be responsible for sewer service.

Duggins also alluded to other concerns that came up at the neighborhood meeting – and which were later reiterated by residents who attended the planning commission’s gathering.

Among those who shared their misgivings with the commission was Don Raynor, a 25-year resident of NC 61, who objected to the development’s potential clash with the rustic ambiance of the surrounding area.

“It’s retained a lot of its rural character, and it really ought to be in the North Carolina scenic corridor.” Raynor told the city’s planning commission. “I feel that the evolution of this industrial park is going to infringe to a greater extent than [the extant] Stoney Creek [industrial park] did on the rural character of Whitsett.”

Raynor went on to decry the potential impact that runoff from the industrial development could have on neighboring homesteads. This particular fear was echoed by Scott Haizlip, another long-time resident of NC 61.

“We’re directly across the street from this proposal,” Haizlip added, “and when you start bringing in light industrial [development], how is that going to affect the community?”

Meanwhile, Haizlip’s neighbor, Patrick Landon Brown, objected to the toll that heavy truck traffic may have on neighboring homeowners such as himself.

“Next thing we know, we have this huge industrial development coming in across the street,” he said. “I didn’t move there thinking that this would ever happen.”

In response to these assorted complaints, Duggins assured the project’s critics that Phillips would make provisions for both runoff and for additional traffic if and when the rezoning request is eventually accepted by Burlington’s city council.

In the meantime, Jamie Lawson, the city’s planning director, gave her own imprimatur to the request due to its compatibility with the long-range plans for the area’s development.

“Staff is recommending this rezoning request,” she added, “as it is consistent with the Guilford County comprehensive plan, which recommends this as a growth area.”

In the end, the rezoning request won over the commission’s chairman John Black as well as fellow members Charlie Beasley, Patricia Gamble, and Hillary Hill. Joan Zec Nelson cast the only vote against the request.


Other business

In addition to its split decision on this industrial request in Guilford County, the city’s planning commission gave its unanimous recommendation to three other requests that concern property within Alamance County.

Among the proposals that the commission endorsed is one that calls for some form of self storage on 1.62 acres at 2020 Chapel Hill Road that are presently zoned for office and institutional use.

The commission also gave its blessing to high density residential zoning on a vacant, 1.4-acre swath of industrially-zoned property at the intersection of Gilmer and Graham streets.


In the meantime, the commission signed off on a limited use form of general business zoning for some 20.21 acres at Tucker Street’s juncture with East Sixth Street that are presently home to Burlington Christian Academy, the Burlington Assembly of God Church, and the Assembly Oaks Retirement Community.

According to Ryan Moffitt, an attorney for these three interconnected institutions, the proposed zoning is simply intended to serve as a “clean up or a corrective” of the property’s existing land use designation.

“Burlington Christian Academy has been operating on this property since 1978 or 1979…and the church has been on the property since 1955,” Moffitt went on to inform the city’s planning commission. “We’re not looking forward to a change in use of the subject parcels here.”

Moffitt nevertheless noted that the school has been operating under a special use permit for the past 45 years.  He added that the requested designation would provide a more suitable classification for BCA and its sister institutions to grow and develop. According to Moffitt, the 16 proposed uses would “naturally come out of what has been in existence on the property for many years.”

The commission’s members went on to vote 5-to-0 to recommend each of these three requests to Burlington’s city council.

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