The Pembroke City Council voted Monday night to approve the first reading of a rezoning request that would allow apartment homes to be built on the Strickland Street Extension adjacent to the Northside Cemetery.
Councilman Johnnie Miller made the motion to go against the city’s Planning and Zoning board, which unanimously voted to recommend the city deny the project.
The project, headed up by Ray Butler of Pembroke, would change the 5.82 acres from B-2 general commercial to R-3 multi-family residential. Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Randall Butler, brother of Ray Butler, abstained from the discussion and the vote.
When addressing the council Butler promised he would not build the apartments above two stories high, but critics of the project challenged him on that assertion, saying he could make that claim but wanted to see proof that he would stick to that plan.
Others in the crowded room, speaking from their seats, said if Butler sold the property there would be no guarantee the new owners would not build higher than two stories.
Butler said he had plans to build the apartment buildings himself and gave his word that he would build no higher than two storeys.
Mayor Judy Cook said, despite zoning regulations that would allow for apartment buildings to be built up to 60 feet high, that the fire code wouldn’t allow for more than a two-storey apartment building.
Cook reminded those speaking against the project that Monday night’s meeting was only the first reading, and said the second reading and final decision on the project would be made at the body’s next meeting on Tuesday, May 1 at 7 p.m.
In other business:
-The council voted on the first readings of three other rezoning requests, including a request from Bruce Cowart to rezone land on Highway 280 from B-1 to B-2 general commercial, and two requests from Mercy Housing to rezone tracts of lane on McFadden and Ledford Streets to R-3 multi-family residential housing.-A rezoning request from Craig Tremble was adopted after a second reading.
-The council discussed hiring a part-time building inspector and the idea of taking over all inspections from the county.
The county voted to issue a moratorium on all building permits within the city until they meet again on May 1.
-Tara Jennings with the Bryan County Family Connection presented the council with a video and presentation regarding underage drinking in Bryan County.
-Joe Winter and his daughter addressed the council about concerns they had with the police department and how certain city police officers had interacted with them in the past. Police Chief Bill Collins said the residents should file a formal complaint with the department so he could get the whole story and address any problems in the department.
He later told the council and residents in attendance that without community input he is unable to address any problems that the department may have.
-The council approved minor changes to the budget and voted to pay the extra $36 a year that would increase medical benefits for the city’s volunteer firefighters from $10,000 to $20,000 a year.