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Rezoning near Currituck airport rejected

Paul Beaumont.jpg

Currituck County Commissioner Paul Beaumont asks questions at at a board work session at which wind energy power critic John Droz spoke, April 2.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

CURRITUCK — Currituck commissioners have denied rezoning approval for a convenience store and business complex in Barco, citing concerns the site is too close to Currituck Regional Airport.

Commissioner Paul Beaumont led a 6-1 vote at commissioners’ Nov. 5 meeting to deny Ponderosa Enterprises’ request to rezone more than 11 acres off Shortcut Road from agricultural and general business use to conditional general business use.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Bobby Hanig cast the lone vote in favor of the rezoning.

In opposing Ponderosa’s request, Beaumont cited the Barco site’s proximity to the airport’s south side runway, claiming it could negatively affect airport operations as well as the facility’s future growth.

“I believe it’s going to pose a public safety threat or a public safety issue,” he said.

Beaumont also said the Ponderosa project could impede the county’s ability to receive future grant funding to expand the airport.

The complex, if approved, would have been on the west side of Ponderosa Mobile Homes and Storage Units, across Shortcut Road from the airport. It’s also on the southwest side of Shortcut Road from College of The Albemarle’s Regional Aviation and Technical Training Center.

David Sawyer, owner of Ponderosa Enterprises, said previously there is demand for the type of convenience store he was proposing. He said people who currently visit the athletic fields at Currituck Community Park have told him they’d like to have somewhere close to the park where they can go, sit down and enjoy a deli sandwich meal. Currently the nearest convenience store is the 7-Eleven at the junction of Shortcut Road and Caratoke Highway, but it has limited space for parking.

Sawyer’s proposal initially came up at commissioners’ Oct. 15 meeting. However, it was tabled after commissioners raised questions about the types of businesses that could be allowed if the site were rezoned to conditional general business use.

During the Nov. 5 meeting, Planning and Community Development Director Laurie LoCicero read aloud a long list of possible uses allowed at the site if it were rezoned. Besides the convenience store they included: a dwelling for live-work; an adult daycare center or child care center; a church; a dinner theater; a restaurant; a business or professional office building; a drugstore or pharmacy; a grocery store; a laundromat; a repair business; a boat and marine rental business. 

Representing Sawyer at the meeting, surveyor Eddie Hyman told commissioners he and Sawyer have worked with both the Currituck Planning and Community Development office and Currituck’s Technical Review Committee to determine what the county would like to see at the site.

Hyman maintained that Sawyer is proposing a valid concept. He said the entrepreneur is trying to get “a nice convenience store — or the potential to put one there — ” close to Currituck Family YMCA, the county ball fields and COA’s campus.

“We think it would be a good fit,” he said. “And everybody up till now has also thought that.”

Addressing safety concerns, Hyman noted aircraft with exposed fuel tanks flying into the airport probably present more of a potential hazard than the convenience store would, given that its fuel storage tanks would be underground.

Sawyer also has said he would be willing to locate the gas pumps on one side of the convenience store building instead of along Shortcut Road.

Hanig asked if plans are to extend the airport runway to the south toward Shortcut Road or to the north side of the airport.

County Manager Dan Scanlon said he believes the greatest potential for expanding the airport is to the south because wetlands are located on the north side.

Commissioner Bob White asked if approving Sawyer’s proposal would affect the county’s ability to stretch the runway to the south.

Scanlon said county staff would have to research the issue before giving a definitive answer.

Citing the possible effect on future development of the airport, White said he wasn’t prepared to support a motion approving Sawyer’s rezoning request.

Beaumont, expressing opposition to Sawyer’s request, said he also was surprised at the number of potential businesses allowed at the site if it was rezoned.

“I’ll be honest with you: I expected, like, five things on the list,” he said. “And things like a movie theater and daycares — that’s a gathering of a lot of people, which, timing being really miserable, would be a really tragic event” if something happened.

Hanig said after the meeting he didn’t see any problem with Sawyer's proposal.

“It’s an allowable zone in that moment,” Hanig said. “I didn’t see a need to deny it for what may happen in the future.”

Hanig also believes a convenience store is needed in the area near Currituck Community Park, the YMCA and the COA campus.

“I also don’t want to inhibit him from the ability to develop it,” Hanig said, referring to Sawyer.

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