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A Non-Enterprising Zone

PRINCE EDWARD – Enterprising opponents were heard Tuesday night.

Rice area residents hammered away at plans to include the community in an expansion of the enterprise zone and County supervisors listened.

“Just forget about Rice,” the board was encouraged.

At the end of a public hearing on proposed Enterprise Zone changes, the board essentially did just that, at least for the year, removing Rice from its Enterprise Zone plans.

No portion of the community will be added.

County officials had looked to add about 540 acres, most of which initially was located in Rice, to its share of Enterprise Zone designation. Fifty-nine property owners were reportedly notified that would have been affected by the boundary adjustment. The state-sponsored Enterprise Zone program, specifically, encourages commercial and industrial development. Properties in the zone-though there is no effect on property values-may be potentially eligible for certain real property or job investment grant incentives from the state.

The initial proposal had factored a section along U. S. Route 460 in the Rice area that included existing business and residential areas (though the Enterprise program offers no incentives for residential improvements, but could be applicable if there were a change in use or the property were sold). However, County officials unveiled a slimmer proposal prior to the hearing, trimming residential areas in Rice.

A community meeting was held in Rice with Lockett District Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones in attendance Sunday and County Planning Director Sharon Carney cited that they took the comments seriously “and that's why we came back and said we really need to make a compromise that's suitable for all the residents that are out there.”

“We wanted to be responsive to the public that we heard from,” Ms. Carney explained, after detailing the modified plan. “But we also wanted to be responsive to the people we'd heard who were in favor of (it), so we were hoping this would be a fair compromise to that end.”

The changed plan was not sufficient for some, who see Rice as a bedroom community and, at times, intermingled their opposition to the Enterprise Zone designation with a planned trucking terminal whose potential location could have been included as part of the Enterprise Zone designation.

Comments

“…Do not take action on a resolution this evening-to pass it as we see here today,” Brian Lokker told the board. “I think we still need time as a community to provide comment, to look at it and study it and get everyone involved with the decision-making process.”

Bonnie Fitzpatrick presented a petition, which she cited included 91 names that were opposed to the community's inclusion in an Enterprise Zone.

“…Rice has always been and considered a great place to live and raise a family. There are generations of families that live in our area because it's always been a family-oriented community,” she said.

Ms. Fitzpatrick, who would later present a lengthy list of questions to the board, also cited the Rails-To-Trails State Park. (The High Bridge State Park recently opened a portion of the former rail line as a recreational trail through the Rice area.)

“…I'm not against the County having more revenue…and I'm not a non-progressive person, but let's think about our history and let's preserve this sweet and hallowed ground at Rice as long as we can and keep it like it is,” commented Patrice Payne. “Put in some tourist places. Put in a little restaurant…Linda's got a nice fabric shop, I love that…Mr. Jenkins has got the Blue and Gray.”

One-by-one speakers addressed the board, though none encouraged the board to pass the Enterprise Zone additions incorporating Rice.

Some Discussion

Following the public hearing, County officials discussed a possible delay before ultimately-with Supervisor Jones suggesting that Rice not be included in the proposal-removing it from the Enterprise Zone plan.

County Administrator Wade Bartlett cited that it is a regional zone that includes areas in Charlotte County and Lunenburg. Until the County approves amendments, they cannot send it to the other two counties.

What It Includes

In addition to the proposed additions to the Rice area, other changes-which are still included-include modifications in the Farmville area. Two separate committees weighed updating the Enterprise Zone. A Town committee focused on Farmville, and a County committee on areas in the County.

The Town's plan factored the deletion of 2.958 acres, and adding 144 acres. County areas added closest to the Town included Poplar Hill Development LLC, 25.502 acres next to The Manor project; Prince Edward IDA property, approximately 117 acres; Farmville Hospitality property (located on the border between the Town and County south of Town).

The Town's changes included commercial areas south and west of the Town.

“These are areas that we feel need to be included in the Enterprise Zone because we want to create economic development in those areas and this program definitely with the real property improvement grants, definitely is an incentive for folks to build, to renovate and to add on,” Town Planner Cindy Morris told Supervisors.

Ms. Morris added up in the potential areas, about $11 million worth of investment in 2009 and this year.

Ms. Morris asked that the board approve the Town's map amendment “because without that, these people that have invested may lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars…”

For the $11 million, she told the board, it's worth about $500,000. “And these investors have invested and have provided probably about 300 jobs.”

Specifically, she cited, the ICA facility and The Woodland.

Trucking Terminal

The Proposed Rice Enterprise Zone area had included property where a trucking terminal and its 25 jobs could be created. County Supervisors at their August meeting, following closed session, authorized the IDA to execute an agreement with Tharpe Trucking and approved the agreement.

The County has an incentive grant package similar to what has been provided to other firms locating in Prince Edward in the past. It links the firm achieving specific goals and the County offering grants and other assistance.

Asked about the need to rezone the site, Bartlett indicated after the meeting under their understanding of the proposed uses, the property would have to be rezoned. If the uses are adjusted, it may not, he said.

The Herald asked, and was told by Ms. Carney that the property was zoned for the planned use, which was reported in the Sept. 3 edition.

Ms. Carney confirmed some planned operations would be allowed by right, but the property would need to be rezoned to allow for others.

Ms. Carney also confirmed that incentives were not linked specifically to any specific piece of property.