Johnston County’s hub of research and industry is a step closer to expanding after Clayton leaders on Monday agreed to rezone nearly 100 acres on the east side of town.
The Clayton Town Council rezoned two tracts totaling 95 acres from residential to industrial use.
The land, on Gordon Road near the U.S. 70-U.S. 70 Business interchange, is next to Johnston County’s Research and Training Zone, a special tax district that’s home to biomanufacturers Grifols and Novo Nordisk.
Developer Norwood Thompson, a partner in the Clayton-based Walthom Group, sought the rezoning to better his chances of landing an industrial tenant.
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On Monday, Thompson said the change makes a lot of sense. “It’s bounded by industrial users,” he said.
However, the land does have one residential neighbor. Edinburgh subdivision, which Thompson helped develop in 2006, sits just southeast of the site.
Some Edinburgh neighbors don’t think the land is suited for industrial use right now. Lisa Wiley, for instance, told councilmen on Monday that she and others are worried about traffic, noise and pollution.
Gordon Road provides the only access to the land, meaning Edinburgh neighbors could one day share the road with workers headed to their jobs. A possible access point exists on nearby North Tech Drive, but it has not been developed.
“We’ve seen the traffic pick up, and with this coming on board, it is going to pick up even more,” Wiley said.
Edinburgh neighbors have also complained that their property values will shrink if the land, now planted in corn, is turned into an industrial site. “We won’t be able to sell it with what’s coming in,” Wiley said.
Councilman Michael Grannis asked Wiley if she or her neighbors had a way to prove their property values would suffer. Wiley said she didn’t but thought any assessor would note a decrease.
Councilman Butch Lawter told Wiley and another neighbor who spoke that he wouldn’t want industry to encroach on his home either. “But looking at what’s best for all of Clayton, it makes sense because it’s one of the only industrial areas,” he said.
Whatever goes on the land, Clayton ordinances would require at least a 6-foot-tall, 10- to 20-foot-wide buffer around the rim of the property. That could come in the form of a fence, trees or landscaping.
Rezoning the land is part of Thompson’s larger goal of making it a N.C. Certified Site with the state Department of Commerce.
Johnston County is home to five N.C. Certified Sites, which the Department of Commerce highlights on its website.
To earn the certification, a site must meet 31 prerequisites, including proper zoning; completion of environmental audits and geotechnical studies; topographical analyses and maps; aerial photography; public utility availability; and information on costs, among other things.
Thompson said he thinks the certification will cost him about $100,000 to complete.
In return, the state says certification reduces the risk for prospective companies by telling them everything they need to know up front.
At a previous Clayton Planning Board meeting, Edinburgh residents questioned developer Norwood Thompson’s follow-through after the streets in their subdivision weren’t turned over to the state Department of Transportation.
Either a subdivision’s developer or 75-80 percent of residents can petition to turn streets over to the DOT. Thompson said on Monday that homeowners are circulating a petition now.
“That is something that should have been done a long time ago,” Thompson said. “The roads are in good shape, thank goodness.”