Clayton News-Star

Clayton can annex research farm

State lawmakers have approved a local bill allowing the Town of Clayton to annex the Central Crops Research Station on U.S. 70 Business.
State lawmakers have approved a local bill allowing the Town of Clayton to annex the Central Crops Research Station on U.S. 70 Business.

Come June 30, the Town of Clayton will annex a 490-acre research farm on the west side of town.

State lawmakers on Monday approved Clayton’s request to include the Department of Agriculture’s Central Crops Research Station in the town limits.

The change won’t generate any revenue, as Clayton can’t levy property taxes on the state-owned land. However, it will extend the town’s boundaries closer to large tracts of land poised for development.

By being closer to the mostly open land, nearly 500 acres in all, Clayton can plan to extend infrastructure to the farm and beyond. Future developers would then likely opt to use the town’s services and perhaps request annexation.

Town Manager Steve Biggs said Clayton will develop a services and land-use plan for the area, similar to what the town did for the U.S. 70-N.C. 42 interchange.

The town is already planning a Clayton-to-Raleigh sewer line that will be close to the research farm.

Biggs said the town already has an idea of how it will allocate the 1 million gallons of daily capacity it will buy from the City of Raleigh’s Neuse River Treatment Station. The town will have to do more planning to see if land near the research farm can also benefit from the new sewer line, he said.

Biggs said he doesn’t think the town could have done the planning without annexing the research farm. “With that being a void of town, it would have not made it worthwhile,” he said.

Town leaders note that opportunities to grow the town limits are limited by an industrial district to the east and existing and planned development on the north and south sides of town. The research farm, established in the 1950s, had prevented growth to the west.

While Clayton is annexing the research farm, some of the town’s ordinances won’t apply to the land. For instance, the farm would be exempt from a town code that regulates keeping swine, according to the Session Law ratified by the General Assembly on Monday.

The town will also not have planning authority over the farm, according to the law.

N.C. Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican, introduced the annexation bill on Clayton’s behalf. The House approved the measure in April, and the Senate signed off on June 11.

In 1953, the state bought land on both sides of U.S. 70 Business near the Johnston-Wake line to replace a research farm in Wake County. Today, the farm, operated by N.C. State University, hosts plant-breeding programs for more than a dozen fruits, vegetables, wild flowers and forage crops. Students and scientists also conduct swine research there; the farm has about 300 hogs.

The farm is also home to an ECONet weather-reporting station that sends data to the State Climatology Office and the National Weather Service, which operates a 700-watt Doppler radar tower on site.

Sandy Stewart, director of the Department of Agriculture’s Research Stations Division, said the farms exist to support agriculture and provide a place for study. He said he’s glad N.C. State and the town could come to an agreement so that mission can continue.

“It seems amenable to all sides,” Stewart said.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104