Board endorses lifting ban

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 05:49 PM

OXFORD — A cap on the number of events in the livestock arena on Cannady Mill Road has been removed by the Granville County Planning Board.

The move was made at Thursday’s meeting, attended by about 70 people.

A portion of the Planning Board’s meeting was devoted to a public hearing on the proposal from the Granville County Cattlemen’s Association. The arena currently operates with a permit that allows only six events a year, including FFA and 4-H events as well as livestock auctions.

Board chairman Tommy Currin’s invitation for those wishing to speak drew 16 individuals. The request was presented by Barry Baker, the planning director for the county, and James Wrenn, the county attorney, read statutory requirements for permits.

Six specific requirements deal with traffic, parking, accessibility, distance from residences and possible adverse effects on the neighborhood.

E.B. Harris, owner of the arena, said a traffic analysis prepared by professional engineers had been submitted earlier. He testified on other points in the statute and concluded, “Granville County is a good place to market cattle.”

Currin gave Harvey Spurr, who opposes granting the special permit, an opportunity to cross-examine Harris. Spurr, who identified himself as a farmer and retired professor from N.C. State University, questioned the adequacy of the roads to handle the additional traffic.

“I know it’s harder to run tractors up the road than it used to be,” Spurr said.

Harris responded, “I don’t think the traffic has done anything to damage the roads.”

The board opened the floor for other public comments.

Jim Smith said he believed himself to be the only living charter member of the cattlemen’s association. Marketing cattle locally is an advantage to both buyer and seller, he said, pointing out that the Granville County livestock arena is the only one in the 10 or 12 neighboring counties.

“We’re requesting the board to lift the restrictions so we can serve Granville County and the surrounding counties,” Smith said.

Kyser “Kay” Stark, president of the cattlemen’s association, said it is the opinion of his board that giving farmers an opportunity to sell in Granville County instead of traveling to other markets would benefit them as well as the county.

Doan Laursen said he and his wife have been in the cattle business since 1975. “We support this proposal,” Laursen said. “It’s our opinion this activity supports economic development.”

He pointed out at each sale, people come into the county and patronize local hotels and restaurants. He said the annual earth roast conducted by the cattlemen’s association supports scholarships for students to attend N.C. State, N.C. A&T and Vance-Granville Community College.

Diane Walsh said she lives on Fairport Road within 1,000 feet of the arena.

“I’m a licensed real estate agent. I don’t see any effect the arena has on property values,” Walsh said.

Sherby Slaughter said, “When farmers are forced to sell in other counties or states, it means they have less money to spend in Granville County.”

Two speakers indicated they are not from Granville County. Douglas Darch of Wake County said he sells his cattle in the Granville County arena.

Thomas Shaw of Vance County said, “Our number one industry in North Carolina is agriculture. I think this will help all these counties in this area.”

Referring to a number of high school students present, he added, “I’m glad to see all these Future Farmer jackets. We need to help these young people.”

A total of 14 individuals spoke in favor of granting the special use permit.

Spurr summarized his opposition, saying, “The cattle business isn’t what drives the economy. My kids aren’t coming back to run the farm. It will be residential.”

Referring to the current limitation on use of the arena, he said, “We made a compromise when we made it six sales. I think it’s time we stopped this business.”

After receiving comments from a total of 15 people, the board voted on each of the six statutory requirements. Each one was passed unanimously, after which the board voted to submit the proposal to the county commissioners with a positive recommendation.

In other business, the planning board held public hearings on an amendment to the zoning ordinance to protect the flood plain and a related adjustment to the overlay map. No residents spoke at the public hearings.

Both changes were approved unanimously.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.