The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

January 16, 2013

To the Editor:

A Call To Arms


TARBORO — To the Editor:

Monday night, Jan.7, 2013, Charlie Harrell and I made our last appearances at an Edgecombe County Commissioners meeting, for different reasons, however.

My swan song began Friday, Jan. 4, when I read the rezoning Notice in the Southerner. This was a typically vague but technically legal notice to rezone three lots in No. 12 Twp. From agricultural residential use to heavy industry. It was so vague and so typical that my interest was sparked to accept the invitation to visit the county planning office to learn more. There, a very nice young man showed me a great colored map. The three "lots" turned out to be three large tracts of land containing about 1,500 to 2,000 acres of land stretching about three or four miles along the south side of US 64 Alternate in No. 12 and No. 11 Townships. These tracts of land would be in addition to about 500 acres rezoned in November to heavy industry. Add that to other tracts rezoned for QVC, KanBan and others about 1988 and you will have about 3,000 acres and about five miles of frontage along US 64 Alternate in an industrial zone. The man who showed it noticed my surprise and asked if I had any concerns. My answer: "Should I have any?" He said that most people who had inquired were worried about Sanderson Farms putting a chicken processing plant here. (The one recently kept out of Nash County). He went on to say that would not be possible as Sanderson needed more ground water than was available in the Kingsboro area. That Friday afternoon and weekend gave me time to write a statement to our County Commissioners hoping to slow down a process that seemed to me to have already gained reckless momentum.

Here's my statement, read at the public hearing Monday night:

To: Edgecombe County Commissioners

By now just about everyone agrees that Edgecombe County avoided a huge mistake when we discouraged the location here of a 3,000 acre hazardous waste dump in 1987 and then the 30,000 hog-a-day slaughter house in 1996. Both projects were conceived by outsiders and largely supported by outsiders. They were however, touted by state and local politicians. Most had their own agendas — although some reasons were patently sound, i.e., raise taxes and create jobs. In both cases our governing bodies labeled each project as a "done deal". Opposition was told to get used to the idea or leave the county.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Now, you, our Commissioners, are considering zoning a huge amount of land for industrial use, just as was about to be done in 1987 and 1996. The big difference is that in those two instances we were told that the waste dump was to be like the one in South Carolina (and hauled people down there to look at it), and the slaughter house was like the flagship plant in Iowa City (and took people there to see it). We learned what was in the package being offered before the zoning was considered. The groundswell of public opinion and the knowledge engendered by public effort convinced those in authority to abort their own efforts to enable those fiascoes.

Now, do you see the difference?

Should we rezone first and then announce the specific use later, when it's too late?

These projects are so huge that once they get approved they take on a life of their own. Our own experience in point: the waste dump promoted by the State of North Carolina and operated by an interstate compact/the slaughter house owned by a conglomerate whose net worth was greater that the gross assessed evaluation of Edgecombe County. So, after the deal is made who has control? Not you who will be voting on the rezoning. Not the people in the county. Then it's too late.

It is well to remember that Sara Lee kept their plans on hold until the waste dump was axed and that QVC would not be here with a slaughter house next door.

To rezone before announcing the specific use would save tow or three months in time. That's not a big deal compared to the risk of having a slaughter house or waste dump in our midst to suffer forever.

What do we hope you will have the courage to do?

1. Delay the proposed rezoning; and/or

2. Appoint a citizens committee to study this process and report to you and the public/ and or

3. Any rezoning should include a requirement that a special use permit be required for each specific use within each zone.

Two or three months delay now is better than a lifetime of regret later. If there's an urgent need for a site for an immediate prospect now, name the prospect. If it's so attractive we'll all get on board. If not attractive, you will still be in control. The Sanderson experience in Nash County is a good example. Please consider the alternatives we have suggested. You will have executed your public trust wisely.


Marvin V. Horton

During the statement, several things of importance developed:

1. The Chairman agreed they would answer questions:

a. Answer: There were no immediate prospects; and each commissioner was polled and acknowledged they knew of no prospects.

b. Answer: No they didn't realize 1,000 acres was in No. 11 Twp. and not No. 12, so they delayed a vote on Tract 6 of about 1,000 acres to February.

c. Answer: They were not in a hurry; it was just good planning. CSX had designated Kingsboro as a "prime development site".

d. No-response to the mention in my statement about the Nash County experience with Sanderson.

2. There was no presentation urging changing the zones. The chairman and county manager stated that the planning board had approved it. (County manager) Mr. (Lorenzo) Carmon said that the county and Edgecombe Martin Co-op had already invested millions of dollars on the site. Officials of the Gateway Partnership were present but "smugly" silent. It was obvious the re-zoning had already been decided.

Finally, this is the third time I've been "shot down as the messenger". The first, when we opposed the 3,000 acre waste dump; the second, when we opposed the 30,000 hog-a-day slaughter house; and now, when we urge caution in a blind (or secret) rezoning of a vast area. Since Monday, I've had three calls that Sanderson Farms is a "done deal". In the parlance of "Watergate"; "What did they know and when did they know it?"

We were "right" twice. How about this time? Our "Citizens for Responsible Zoning" banner is available. Who will take it up?

Marvin V. Horton