LUMBERTON — A bid to establish a car wash in the B-1 central business zone was denied Monday by Lumberton City Council.
Council members voted not to amend the city’s zoning regulations and defended the decision as necessary to protect the city’s vision for downtown revitalization.
Johnny Ray Wilkins and Lumberton businessman Dick Taylor requested the zoning change. The city’s Planning Board recommended the request be denied.
Wilkins is renting a building owned by Taylor that is located by the downtown plaza. Wilkins told the council he originally had thought about selling clothing at the site, but later decided to establish a car-detailing shop with car washing as part of the business.
“I think it would be a good thing,” Wilkins said during a public hearing. “I just want to do something to help the community.”
At the request of Councilman John Cantey, Planning Director Brandon Love listed some of the things that have been done over the past few years to renovate downtown. Love’s list of projects included the repair of brick sidewalks, installation of signage to aid tourists visiting the downtown, construction of a roundabout, and the beginning of a river walk.
City officials were sympathetic that Wilkins had spent a significant amount of money to rewire the building while not being aware he couldn’t open his proposed business until council members approved amending zoning regulations. They suggested he would have the council’s support if he found someplace not downtown to open his business.
Love suggested Wilkins reconsider his idea to sell clothes.
“That’s a permitted use in that district,” Love said.
A request for a conditional-use permit that would allow a cosmetology trade school at 202 E. Third St. was approved.
Sharon Smith, who will operate the school, told council members her program differs from the program at Robeson Community College in that it does not take as long for students to finish the program and enter the workforce. Students in her program can finish in a couple of months rather than two years.
Rob Armstrong, the city’s Public Works director, had no problem persuading council members to approve the expansion of the city’s current five-year Water and Sewer Capital Improvement Plan to 10 years.
“This is similar to the five-year plan, but expands to show projects over a 10-year period,” Armstrong said.
A 10-year plan is needed if the city hopes to obtain a Community Development Block Grant that would fund sewer expansion at Rosewood Mobile Home Park, Armstrong said.
After a public hearing during which no one spoke, council members gave Armstrong the OK to apply for a $750,000 grant to fund the sewer expansion at the park off Elizabethtown Road. The park has 125 home sites. Eighty-six of those sites having failing on-site septic systems.
The county’s Health Department has been shutting down home sites where the failing septic systems can’t be brought up to standards and is not allowing additional connections or replacement homes on these lots.
In other business:
— Mickey Sinclair, with VFW Post 8969, recognized city officials for their “unwavering support” of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
— Heard from City Manager Wayne Horne that several crews from the city utilities company are heading to the Lakeland and Vero Beach areas of Florida to assist in getting electricity service back to people left in the dark by Hurricane Irma. Horne said that the crews, requested as part of a mutual aid agreement between communities that are members of ElectriCities, will be in Florida for 10 to 15 days.
“I’m so proud we can send some of our people to help those in Florida,” Mayor Bruce Davis said. “So many came to Lumberton to help us. Now we are able to return the goodwill and help those people in need.”
— Sims Williamson and Betty Guin received the Pride of Lumberton award for entering a burning building on Chippewa Street on Aug. 27 and rescuing the building’s tenant who was trapped inside. Lumberton Fire Chief Robert Ivey and several firefighters were present to honor the two city residents for their bravery.
— Council members authorized Armstrong to move ahead with an application for a $150,000 Assett Inventory Assessment Grant to map the city’s water system.
— Adopted ordinances directing the building inspector to demolish and remove an unsafe building at 2310 Marshall St., and remove an unsafe storage facility at 3605 N. Walnut St.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.