Council approves UDO change allowing food pantries to operate in Morehead City

Volunteers help unload boxes off a truck at Martha’s Mission Cupboard on Bay Street in Morehead City during a food distribution event last year. The Morehead City Council approved adding “food pantry” to the city’s unified development ordinance so Martha’s Mission and other organizations can legally operate in the city. (Cheryl Burke)

MOREHEAD CITY — Thanks to recent approval by the city council, Martha’s Mission Cupboard and other charitable organizations can now operate food pantries within certain Morehead City zoning districts without fear of violating city statutes.

The Morehead City Council met July 13 to consider a request from Martha’s Mission to amend the city’s unified development ordinance to include a definition for food pantry.

Along with the definition, Martha’s Mission proposed making the new classification a permissible use, which doesn’t require town approval, in the commercial neighborhood and highway commercial districts, and as a special use, which does require approval, in the commercial downtown, downtown business, office and professional and R5 residential districts. 

Bob Upchurch, a volunteer with Martha’s Mission, appeared last week on behalf of the organization to give a reason for the request. The mission has operated a food pantry at 901 Bay St. for around 35 years and is looking to expand its reach, he explained.

“They’ve outgrown their current location on Bay Street and would like to get into a commercial district,” Mr. Upchurch said. “…They serve about 800-plus families in Carteret County and they just need a bigger place.”

Mr. Upchurch said Martha’s Mission has been looking for a new location for about six months, but since “food pantry” wasn’t an explicitly allowed use in the UDO, the organization has, so far, been unable to secure a new piece of property.

“We have looked at places and were told that we could not be considered for that property because it wasn’t included in the UDO and the zoning, so we’ve got to have something in the zoning rules,” he said.

Though the city council was generally supportive of the request, some members questioned whether it was appropriate for the R5 district. Mr. Upchurch said Martha’s Mission had included that in its request because the existing food pantry on Bay Street is situated within an R5 zone. He acknowledged, however, the mission was unlikely to find a suitably large lot within that district that was also within the organization’s rather limited budget.

After brief deliberation, the council voted unanimously to approve the UDO amendment, but excluded the R5 district from the list of special uses.

In other business, July 13 was the city council’s penultimate meeting in the council chambers of the municipal building at 202 S. 8th St. Construction is wrapping up on the new city hall building on Bridges Street, and city manager Ryan Eggleston said he expects to be fully moved in by the time of the council’s regular meeting in September.

“Pretty much from today until the middle of August, the next 30 days, we are definitely in crunch time as it relates to preparing for the move and making the move,” Mr. Eggleston said.

The council also adopted the consent agenda for its July 13 meeting, which included the following items:

  • Approved the minutes of the May 11 and 18 and June 1 budget meetings, the May 19 special council meeting, June 1 council workshop and June 8 regular council meeting.
  • Accepted the finance director and tax collector reports.
  • Accepted notice of ad valorem tax overpayments in the amount of $6,810.50 for the month of June.
  • Approved requests for refunds of overpayment of ad valorem taxes in the amount of $24,202.25 for June.
  • Accepted receipt of tax collector’s settlement for fiscal year 2020-21, disposition of tax records/receipts, tax collections for FY21, outstanding taxes as of June 30, real estate delinquent report for tax year 2020, barred tax list effective Wednesday, Sept. 1 and insolvents list.
  • Approved authorization to collection fiscal year 2021-22 ad valorem taxes.
  • Adopted resolution 2021-R-29 endorsing the 8th annual Cape Lookout Shootout King Mackerel Tournament series to take place July 29-Aug. 1, Sept. 9-12, Oct. 7-10 and Nov. 10-14, with alternate dates of Sept. 23-26 and Oct. 21-24.
  • Adopted resolution 2021-R-30 declaring property at 3413 Bridges St., the former National Guard Armory property, as surplus and authorizing its sale.
  • Adopted contingency emergency budget amendment report.
  • Adopted capital reserve fund ordinance 2021-21.
  • Adopted budget ordinance amendment 2021-23.
  • Accepted the end of fiscal year sale of surplus report.


Contact Elise Clouser at; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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