Leak: Military facility a safety hazard

Johnny Woodard Staff Writer

September 17, 2013

LAURINBURG — City Councilman Curtis Leak at Tuesday’s council meeting railed against a proposal to amend the city’s ordinance to allow for the placement of a military training facility in the north part of Laurinburg, accusing his colleagues of maintaining a double standard.

“This would have never gotten this far if they were proposing it on the south side of town,” Leak said of plans to allow the Maxton-based Gryphon Group to place a military training facility at the former QualPak plant off US-401. “They think that because the north side doesn’t say anything that they can just put anything they want there, but that doesn’t mean … they can go play G.I. Joe on the north side.”

Leak represents District 1, which includes the most of the north part of Laurinburg.

On Monday the proposal, which would see the city’s universal development ordinance amended to allow for the placement of military training facilities inside industrial zones, was recommended by a 3-1 vote of the Laurinburg Planning Board.

The lone dissenter to that vote, board member Charles Parker, expressed concerns about noise pollution — concerns which Leak said were “dead right.”

“I’m going to be a lifelong citizen of Laurinburg, and I live in (the north part of Laurinburg), and I hope to be buried there, and when I’m dead I don’t want to hear, “Boom, boom, boom,’” Leak said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Leak also said that he was worried about the safety of residents nearby the proposed facility, which is set to include a firing range.

“People that hunt know ammunition travels. There’s going to be the possibility of somebody getting hit,” Leak said. “This is a very dangerous situation and we need to proceed with caution.”

On Monday City Planner Brandi Deese said the proposed amendment was based on similar legislation in Harnett County.

According to Leak, the proposal lacks “teeth.”

Council members J.D. Willis, Mary Jo Adams and Drew Williamson voted to move forward with the amendment, with Leak voting against.

After city council’s Tuesday vote, the proposed amendment will move on to a public hearing, after which it will be voted on again by the city council.

If that amendment is approved, the Gryphon Group could then file a conditional use permit application under the new rules.

“The process could take four months,” City Manager Charles Nichols said.

Leak said that he has fielded a number of phone calls from concerned citizens about the placement of the training facility.

“Don’t call Curtis Leak,” he said. “Please call the media, call those preachers in the community and civic organizations.”

If the city moves forward and approves the amendment, Leak predicted “significant” blow back from Laurinburg residents.

“People will come out and say something, and it will be a hot topic in Laurinburg until it’s corrected,” Leak said.

Also during the meeting the city council voted to accept $75,000 in grant funds from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency for low-income Laurinburg residents to make emergency repairs to their homes.

According to Adrian Lowery, housing coordinator for the Lumber River Council of Governments, the grant money can be applied for starting today by calling the Laurinburg planning department at (910) 276-8257.

In other action on Tuesday, the council:

— Heard from Miller Slaughter, director of the Laurinburg Farmers’ Market, who told the council that the market will need to recruit more vendors before it is ready to begin advertising. Slaughter said the market still has $800 of the original $2,500 allocated by the city. Slaughter can apply for an additional $2,500, that is held in contingency, if needed.

— Approved spending more than $10,000 on audio-visual upgrades to the council chambers.