Proposal to go before county commissioners

Property owners voiced opposition to Havelock’s plan to expand its extra-territorial jurisdiction boundaries at a public hearing Monday night.

Despite the opposition, the board ultimately passed a resolution requesting that the Craven County Board of Commissioners approve the plan to extend the city’s ETJ out two miles from the current city limits.

Those in the affected area would not pay any increased taxes and would not be annexed but would be subject to city zoning and building regulations.

Havelock City planner Katrina Marshall said that the purpose of proposed expansion is to prevent incompatible development around Cherry Point and to facilitate appropriate development around the future route of the U.S. 70 bypass around the city’s south side.

“Preventing incompatible development around MCAS Cherry Point is important for public safety, quality of life, and safe and effective military flight operations,” said Marshall.

Marshall said the areas that would be within the extension “are currently unprotected from uncontrolled growth.” The expansion is in line with policy with the city’s 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, she said.

The expansion is also among recommendations in the Cherry Point Joint Land Use Study, which was recently completed.

Still, property owners in the affected area who spoke Monday opposed the plan.

Attorney Bobby Stricklin, who said he represented the owners of a 325-acre parcel on U.S. 70, said the proposal essentially cut the property in half, leaving a portion within the city’s proposed jurisdiction and a portion in Craven County’s jurisdiction. The property is owned by the ECJ Tarheel Investments, of Hagatna, Guam.

“These are the same people that developed Carolina Pines,” said Stricklin. “Their plans are for development once we can get sewer there. The same family developed Cherry Branch, Stonebridge, and Tucker Creek. They have done a considerable amount of development in this town and it’s all residential.”

Stricklin requested the city to remove the property from the expansion, saying it would be “an absolute nightmare” to have to deal with both the county and the city for zoning, building permits and other matters when developing the property.

“It just doesn’t make any sense for residential development,” said Stricklin. “You guys talk about consistent development, but this plan turns my client’s property into an unknown inconsistency when it comes to development. It really just puts it out to the wind and puts it in a tornado.

“It really puts us in a quandary. We have a piece of property that is subject to two different governmental organizations’ zoning rules. It could be an absolute mess, and I just want to avoid that mess.”

The development of Carolina Pines was excluded from the proposed ETJ because it is already developed and incompatible development is not likely to occur there, according to the city.

John Thomas, an engineer from New Bern, represented the Kern Company, of Mineral, Va., which owns about 200 acres, including where most of a 75-acre parcel is within the proposed ETJ western limits. Thomas also asked that the 75-acre Kern property be excluded from the expansion.

“In the last couple of years we have done a number of master plans for this particular piece of property to include both residential and commercial,” said Thomas. Thomas said that if the property is not excluded, he would like to have a meeting with the planning department about the zoning of the property.

Commissioner Danny Walsh suggested that that a memorandum of understanding could be made between the city and the county allowing one or the other governmental entity to handle permitting and zoning of properties divided on the boundary.

Property Owner Wally Poythress said he strongly opposed the expansion because of “past dealings with Havelock.” He said the city was opening “a big bucket of worms” if it moved forward with the plan.

Michael Thorsby, of Craven County, complained that the expansion restricted the rights of property owners.

“That puts the ball in your court to tell us what we can and cannot do with our property and I don’t think that is the best interest of the residents that have invested time, talents and treasures in this city for many years,” he said. “It’s just not good business.”

Havelock Mayor Will Lewis said the city does not benefit from the proposed ETJ expansion.

“We have a small planning department. We have a small staff. We’re not getting an ounce of taxes. We’re not getting an ounce of increased revenue for anything that may happen out there, and yet, we will have to use our staff do to everything required once we take on the ETJ,” said Lewis. “There is no benefit to us beyond our job of protecting Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and compatible use around it. We are willing to do it because we are willing to make that sacrifice. We are willing to say that this is important and this is what we’re going to do.”

Lewis admitted there is no personal benefit for property owners either.

“I think there are indirect benefits for everybody because a lot of those people who are coming into the ETJ work on base or have businesses that make money by the Marines that are here and the people that work on that base,” said Lewis. “Protecting the end of the runway at Cherry Point and doing everything that we can to ensure that we get 94 F-35Bs here and that Cherry Point is successful for another 75 years or 100 years or however many years we want it to be successful, that is an indirect benefit to everybody that lives here, absolutely.”

Lewis said he did not think there was a “negative benefit” to the ETJ expansion to property owners.

“Right now, if you put a building in your property, you have to go to the county to get a permit,” he said. “Tomorrow, if this was in the ETJ, you would just come to the city instead of the county.”

Lewis said that the fees between the city and the county are similar and competitive.

“To protect this, somebody has got to zone it,” said Lewis. “Our county does not do official zoning … so we said we will do what we can to zone it. The county is on board with us taking on the two miles that we need to take over to do this.”

The Craven County Board of Commissioners is expected to take up the issue at its Nov. 7 meeting, and Havelock is expected to take a vote at its Nov. 28 meeting.

In other business Monday, the board:

-- approved $197,366 from sewer retained earnings for the purchase of a methanol pump at the Havelock sewer plan and to fund existing projects.

-- appointed Zechariah Felton and Evelyn Ferry to seats on the Havelock Youth Advisory Committee.