BEAUFORT — The Carteret County Board of Commissioners put an end to a months-long dispute last week when it granted a rezoning request for a former church property on Highway 24 that some neighbors hoped to keep residential.
The board of commissioners met April 19 to consider the request from Island Church of Emerald Isle to rezone 3095 Highway 24 from R-15M (single-family residential) to R-B (residential-business) district. Commissioners previously tabled a version of the request at their January meeting that sought to change the zoning to B-3, general business district, which allows more varied uses than R-B.
At the suggestion of the commissioners, Island Church revised its request and the County Planning Commission reviewed it in March, voting 4-1 to recommend its approval. The planning commission originally saw the request in October, when the church proposed the B-1 district, which has the most allowed uses of any business district.
The commission tabled the request and suggested a less intense zoning, so Island Church returned in November with the B-3 zoning, which the commission ultimately recommended denying.
Each time the request has appeared before either the planning commission or the board of commissioners, it has drawn a crowd of detractors who strongly oppose the proposed rezoning. Several nearby residents, some whose properties abut 3095 Highway 24, have voiced concerns over the possibility of increased traffic, noise and runoff if a business were to go where the church once stood.
“We understand they want to sell it, but we’re also concerned by what kind of business they sell it to,” resident Spillman Grice said April 19.
Others said they want to keep the residential nature of the area intact and fear encroaching commercialization.
“I purchased this place from my brother and sister to live there, I chose to live there. It is residential … I just hate to see residential be made commercial in a residential area,” neighbor Terry Murphy said.
Island Church of Emerald Isle Pastor Paul Ortiz said the church, which moved to a new location about three years ago, has been trying to sell the Highway 24 property to no luck because of its current zoning. He said he has tried to compromise with residents by changing his request several times, but he felt the rezoning was necessary to be able sell the property.
“We’ve been back and forth for I guess eight months on this issue, and my biggest concern is that we have made numerous concessions to try to appease our neighbors and their concerns and there has been no compromise,” Mr. Ortiz said. “At this point I would just implore the board, we have a property we can’t do anything with. …We would really like this to move forward as R-B.”
Commissioner Robin Comer, who suggested the R-B district as an option in January, said he felt it was appropriate for this situation because it promotes businesses meant to be low-impact and compatible with residential areas, such as a childcare center or office building.
“This R-B district was designed to have as much failsafe in it as possible for properties abutting…residential areas,” he said.
After some discussion, the board voted 4-2 to approve the rezoning request, with commissioners Ed Wheatly and Bob Cavanaugh opposed. Commissioner Mark Mansfield abstained from voting because he said he owns property in the area.
“I voted no on the rezoning in Broad Creek, I didn’t speak much on it, but I voted no because I chose to stand with the residents of the community rather than an absentee landowner, and that’s all I’ll say about that,” Mr. Cavanaugh said during the commissioners’ comments portion of the meeting April 19. “Progress is coming to Carteret, and we can control it, not just rubber stamp everything.”
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.