Morrisville businesses worry about proposed zoning changes

aramos@newsobserver.comMay 20, 2014 

— Some people say proposed changes to the town’s development rules could hurt local businesses and their ability to grow.

Morrisville is in the process of rezoning several parcels of land to make them compliant with the town’s new unified development ordinance, which was adopted in December and regulates everything from building height to buffers.

Zoning designations determine how land can be used, including whether homes or businesses can be in a certain area.

International Paper, which owns about 10 acres on Morrisville Parkway, could be negatively affected by a change in zoning, Matthew Quinn, an attorney representing the company, told town leaders during a recent public hearing.

The site is currently zoned industrial management but is set to become a “community activity center,” a new designation that would allow for different kinds of uses within an area. Warehousing and distribution would not be permitted under the change, however.

That poses a problem for International Paper, which has a merger in the works to consolidate some of its distribution operations in Morrisville, Quinn said.

“It would bring jobs to Morrisville and increase (the town’s) business profile,” he said. “The rezoning would prevent us from being able to do so.”

Proposed changes to land-use designations have generated public feedback. The town has received more than 100 written comments and phone calls. Several protest petitions have been filed, requiring a super-majority vote from the Town Council.

A public hearing on the rezoning map has been continued to May 27, and the council is expected to vote June 24.

Mitchell Adams of the Southport Business Park off of Aviation Parkway said the site would also suffer from a change from industrial to a “business activity center.” The park is home to about 2,000 jobs, Adams said.

“I ask you to drive through ... and see if you see anything offensive,” he said. “Morrisville will kill the goose that has been laying the golden egg. I ask you to leave parcels the way they’ve been.”

There are 14 flex-use buildings in the business park, with plans to add about 200,000 square feet of rentable space. Under the new rules flex buildings, which are versatile and allow for office or industrial space, wouldn’t be allowed, Adams said.

Other concerns

It’s not just local businesses that are concerned about potential changes.

Rebecca Crandall of the Battle of Morrisville Preservation Society doesn’t want the town to change the site of a Civil War skirmish off of Morrisville-Carpenter Road from agricultural to very low-density residential.

Morrisville is doing away with the agricultural designation altogether because few farms remain in town.

Crandall said even with a very low-density label, the change would allow the land to be overdeveloped.

“We will lose evidence of our Civil War history,” she said. “We will also lose trees, which the town has been losing at an alarming rate. ... This site should be preserved and promoted as a tourist destination.

“With (the) centennial of the battle less than a year away, now is the perfect time.”

Some farms still operate in town. Area historian Esther Dunnegan has family that owns a tree farm.

“We know change is inevitable,” she said. “This has been always designated as (agriculture). It’s a farm that still grows trees that Morrisville is so proud of. We want that to remain to (agriculture). It has been in the family for over four generations.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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