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Rezoning decision reversed

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Commissioners reversed their decision on a rezoning request at their regular meeting here on April 19, just two weeks after initially denying the change.

As previously reported by the News-Herald, a public hearing was held on April 5 for the commissioners to consider a rezoning proposal regarding a 100-acre parcel located along NC Highway 46 near Cherry Tree Road, west of the town of Gaston.

The parcel is zoned Agricultural Residential Watershed 2 (AR-2), and the proposal was to change that designation to Agricultural Residential (AR) for the purpose of constructing a solar facility on the property.

Solar facilities are not permitted on land zoned AR-2.

The Board of Commissioners previously approved a rezoning request from AR-2 to AR in Dec. 2020 for 10 parcels of land, totaling over 600 acres, in the same area. This 100-acre parcel was supposed to be included in that initial rezoning request.

At the April 5 meeting, the commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of denying the request due to a non-favorable recommendation from the county’s Planning Board.

William Flynn, the county’s Planning and Zoning Director, explained that the Planning Board’s non-favorable recommendation came from the “watershed” designation.

“Simply changing the name of it doesn’t change how water runs off of the property,” Flynn said of their justification.

Board Chair Charles Tyner cast the one dissenting vote on the matter.

No citizens submitted comments for the public hearing, though one person from the solar facility company spoke briefly to talk about studies done on the safety of solar facilities.

The commissioners decided to consider the rezoning request anew at the April 19 meeting.

“This is the same request that came before you approximately two weeks ago,” Flynn said as he presented the information on the 100-acre parcel again. “Nothing has changed from our side.”

“We had already rezoned part of this, but this 100 acres was not ready when they brought it before us [in December],” explained Tyner.

Tyner said the board did not have all the information before which is why they were considering it again.

Without any further discussion, Commissioner Kelvin Edwards motioned to approve the rezoning request, and Commissioner Joyce Buffaloe provided the second.

This time the vote was unanimously in favor.