Guilford PZC, residents have say on project

Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — Planners and residents debated a “road map” for reconfiguring the area of town between the Green and the harbor at a special Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday.

Commissioners were scheduled to vote on the Town Center South Project report, which aims to preserve the area’s “village character” and natural wetlands through rezoning and other means. No vote had been taken at presstime.

The proposal has been in the works since 2004, when the Planning and Zoning Commission appointed a committee to study the area covering about one square mile. The land currently includes some industrial areas, and residents had raised concerns about the industries’ environmental impacts and the truck traffic on Whitfield Street.

Members of the Town Center South Committee recommended that the town adopt “transit-oriented” zoning in the Whitfield Street corridor, which would encourage residential and mixed-use growth around the commuter hub of the train station.

But some commissioners questioned how tightly the town would be bound to stick to the text of the report, which includes suggestions about rezoning some industrial areas and moving the Public Works Department.

“When I read this it didn’t come across as a food for thought, it came across as recommendations,” Commissioner David Grigsby said. “My concern is if we adopt this … people are going to read the plan in five years and say, ‘The town recommends putting a septic system on this site.’”

But Chairwoman Shirley Girioni called the plan “another tool in our toolkit.”

“We need some guidance as to what happens to the area, rather than having it be so haphazard,” Girioni said.

The Town Center South Project’s committee included 20 members who met for two years.

At Wednesday’s meeting, several residents spoke to support the proposal, and one person said he was against the plan.

“There is enormous sentiment throughout the whole town against all this truck traffic and against all this industrial pollution,” Ellen Ebert said. “This is not a neighborhood problem — this is really how the whole town feels this area should go.”

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