LUMBERTON — A conditional-use permit that allows the establishment of a 43-trailer mobile home park on Wiregrass Road in Smyrna was approved Monday on a 6-to-2 vote by the Robeson County Board of Commissioners.
Commissioners Tom Taylor and David Edge voted against the permit request from Carolyn Floyd-Robinson after listening to the concerns of neighboring property owners who said a trailer park would increase crime and decrease property values. Floyd-Robinson plans to establish the park on 24 acres she has owned for more than 10 years.
Monday’s hearing on the proposal was a continuation of a hearing that began two weeks ago. Commissioner Berlester Campbell, in whose district the park will be built, requested the delay so he could meet with opponents and proponents of the project.
According to Floyd-Robinson, Campbell met with her and other involved parties last week and submitted to her a list of additional conditions she would need to agree to if the commissioners were to approve the permit.
“I had no problems with the extra conditions,” she told The Robesonian. “They are basically the same thing that the Planning Board had already approved.”
About a dozen nearby property owners attended the meeting, and five addressed the commissioners with their concerns. One project supporter, a relative of Floyd-Robinson, stood and told the commissioners that Floyd-Robinson would operate a safe and clean trailer park.
Conditions for receiving the permit include no home shall be placed in the park that is more than 3 years old at the time of the placement; the park must be professionally maintained; a manager must be available around the clock; street lighting will be established and maintained to ensure illumination for safety; and the road must be graveled immediately and paved in accordance with state Department of Transportation standards after the third home is placed.
Campbell made the motion to approve the permit. He also stressed the need for the park to help victims of Hurricane Matthew.
“There are still people left homeless from Matthew,” he said. “They need somewhere to go.”
Opponents were not convinced that the park will be a community asset.
“Trailer parks are good at first, but after time they fall down,” said Al Freeman, a former law enforcement officer. “… Crime grows and land values go down. That’s just common knowledge.”
In a brief work session to discuss the proposed county budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the commissioners told County Manager Ricky Harris they will not approve a 2-cent increase in the county’s tax rate.which is now 77 cents per $100 of property value.
“You should go another route,” board Chairman Tom Taylor told Harris. “We don’t want any tax increases.”
Commissioner Roger Oxendine echoed in.
“I’m not in favor of a tax increase. I think the landowners are bearing the brunt now,” he said. “I hope we can come up with a solution.”
According to Harris, the county continues to make improvements in public utilities, with a focus on the county water system. More funding for construction of a state-required 911 backup center is also proposed, and renovation of the BB&T building that will house county offices is underway.
Harris said employee health insurance premiums are likely to increase based on an anticipated $3.5 million increase in the the cost of health insurance.
The commissioners recessed their meeting immediately after Harris’ budget briefing until 6 p.m. next Monday.
In other business, Dixon Ivey, director of Planning and Inspections, presented commissioners with a report concerning the state hazard mitigation grant program, which stopped taking applications earlier in the day.
The grants offered by the state Emergency Management’s recovery section provide for property buyouts, increases in home elevations, and home construction for owners of property damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Matthew.
As of May 5, 2,400 applications were filed for the 50 counties across the state declared as disaster areas as a result of Hurricane Matthew, Ivey said. Another 600 were expected by Monday’s deadline. Only 800 applications statewide will be able to be funded with the $150 million originally made available. Another $400 million has been requested from the federal government, he said.
Nick Burk, of the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management’s Hazard Mitigation Branch for Hurricane Matthew, said last week that 320 applications have been received from Lumberton, with 112 more coming from other areas of Robeson County. Another 12 applications came from Red Springs, which, like Lumberton, handles its own planning and zoning issues.
The commissioners on Monday also:
— Approved an incentives package for a new industry that plans to locate in Robeson County. The industry is referred to only as “Project RV.” The company will invest $2 million in the county and create more than 60 jobs paying about $39,000 a year, according to Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic developer and industrial recruiter.
— Passed a resolution requesting state money for repair to county roads damaged as a result of Hurricane Matthew.
— Heard a presentation from Wendy Chavis, director of Robeson County’s Parks and Recreation Department, concerning the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. This grant supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities, and health and fitness/recreational activities to students during non-school hours.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.