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HILLSVILLE — The Carroll Industrial Park's development restrictions lacked one day of expiring before county officials renewed them for another 20 years, much to the consternation of two businessmen.
The Carroll supervisors and the Industrial Development Authority held a public hearing on the covenants on Jan. 11, one day before the 20-year period on the restrictions would have expired.
Without the approval of the two boards, the county would not have been able to put the covenants in place again, County Attorney Jim Cornwell said near the end of the discussion.
Restrictions placed on the industrial park at its creation 20 years ago made sure the properties and the improvements would remain in good condition, County Administrator Gary Larrowe explained at the outset of the public hearing. These covenants included clauses that trash be picked up, roads built, facilities maintained and more.
"The thought process behind it is to protect all those in the park, to make sure that there is not negative activities in the future that end up going in the park," he said. "This is nothing more than what is already in place."
To remain in place, the covenants require owners of at least 50 percent of property agree to them, and Bernie Deck, Carroll County's economic developer, surveyed businesses there.
He found that owners of 77 percent of the properties are in agreement with keeping the covenants in force. Those entities include the IDA itself as a landowner; Gildan, which owns the former Kentucky Derby Hosiery plants; Parkdale America; Westar Investments; and Kidz World Child Care Center.
Gildan owns 40 percent of the property, according to information from Deck. The IDA owns another 28 percent.
Either not responding or not supporting the continued covenants were Schwartz Properties, Moir Beamer of Virginia Produce, Pro-Form Construction, Rio Grande restaurant and Guy Padgett.
During the public hearing, Beamer told the members of the two county boards why he didn't like the idea.
He hoped the county officials would consider making the covenants less restrictive for the benefit of the property owners.
"It does not leave the landowner much that he can do on his own," Beamer said. "He has to come back to the board" for additional approvals on design and construction proposals.
Specifically, Beamer singled out the covenant that requires the county sign off on building new facilities.
Having to seek approval from the county means that everyone will find out about a business's plans, Beamer said. Three days after he first brought his business idea to Carroll officials, he got a call from a man who cussed him out about it.
"Sometimes you need a few things you can have that's more private than out where everybody knows," he explained.
About the companies that gave their consent, Beamer noted they are mostly out of business and probably want to sell off their property.
When it came to the extension of the covenants, Beamer asked the county officials to approve their renewal for a year, so some changes could be made in the meantime.
The restrictions are needed, he acknowledged, because just anything shouldn't be allowed in the industrial park.
"We also need a little freedom for the ones that are trying to operate a business there," Beamer said. "If the board wants to help pay my taxes, it'd tickle me to death for them to, but if I got to pay the taxes, I should have some say-so over what's going on there."
Andrew Aguirre, representing Rio Grande Mexican restaurants, explained he bought land in the southeast quadrant of the U.S. 58-Interstate 77 interchange and wanted to build a 4,000-square-foot facility there. But the covenants are so strict, he's not sure that's allowed.
From the audience, Deck noted that there are some restrictions on the use of the industrial park land for retail purposes.
Aguirre indicated that he intended to spend $1.5 million in his new business there. He also hoped the restrictions wouldn't negatively impact the value of the land.
But Larrowe didn't think the covenants would apply to that property. "I was questioning whether that piece of property was ever in the industrial park or not," he said. "I'm not sure it ever was."
The same would apply to Guy Padgett's land, the county administrator added.
No other citizens spoke.
"If that wasn't part of the industrial park, then there wouldn't be no restrictions on it?" IDA Member Clinton Willie clarified.
That's correct, other county officials answered.
Given the opportunity, the IDA approved the continuation of the covenants on a motion by Barry Hicks.
Supervisor Andy Jackson also wanted a clarification on the Rio Grande and Padgett land before voting.
Cornwell felt that the restrictions would have shown up on Aguirre's deed when he bought it, if it applied to that land.
The IDA will research that and get back to Aguirre with an answer, the county attorney said. He acknowledged that the covenants do probably need some updating, and he expects the IDA will make some recommendations on that.
In the end, all the supervisors voted for the covenants — though with some hesitation.
Supervisor David Hutchins said he could understand Beamer's point, but he felt the county needed to have some controls over the industrial park development.
Supervisor Sam Dickson said the covenants would just go away on the next day without this approval.
"If 77 percent agree, I sympathize with Moir, of course, but I guess I have to vote yes," the at-large supervisor said.
The supervisors unanimously approved Hutchins' motion.
Richard Slate Sr., the chairman of the IDA, immediately signed the resolution before the IDA members left the meeting.