Public hearing on tent city set for Oct. 7

Place of Grace in East Rockingham aims to transition homeless
Work has commenced; enforcement action delayed until hearing

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Previous coverage
* Sept. 21: Place of Grace – ‘It works, it works, it works’
* Sept. 17: Girl Scouts collecting donations for tent city fire pit
* Sept. 5: Volunteers spur opening of Place of Grace

Officials with New Life Christian Ministries and Transitional Services of Richmond County aim to convince members of the Richmond County Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustment that their tent city in East Rockingham meets all the rules needed to qualify for a conditional use permit.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Mark Joplin, left, gives a walking tour of Place of Grace, a tent city in East Rockingham that aims to help the homeless transition to permanent housing and better lives. Site officials held a reception in early September but has yet to receive a conditional use permit to operate.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Mark Joplin, left, gives a walking tour of Place of Grace, a tent city in East Rockingham that aims to help the homeless transition to permanent housing and better lives. Site officials held a reception in early September but has yet to receive a conditional use permit to operate.

The chance to make that argument is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the county administrative office, located at 221 S. Hancock St. in downtown Rockingham.

Situated on 26.25 acres behind New Life Church on Airport Road, the partnership between Gary Richardson, church pastor, and Mark Joplin of Transitional Services of Richmond County plans to help those who are ready to seek help transition from homeless to a more permanent solution.

The parcel is zoned Village-Residential, with frontage to Airport Road zoned Highway Commercial. The proposed land use category, Campground and RV Park, is allowable in Village-Residential as a conditional use.

County staff have visited the site, according to county documents, and have inquired about the total number of tents, age group of residents, gender make-up, safety, drinking water, heat source, emergency preparedness, and estimated duration of  the endeavor.

Richardson and Joplin have submitted a copy of the site’s policies and procedures, as well as an informational packet, to help answer staff members’ questions.

Staff noted that work has commenced to prepare the site for a “tent campground shelter.” Multiple tents already have been erected, including two larger, military-style tents for supplies and administrative support in addition to smaller tents.  As a result of a received conditional use permit application, pending a decision by the county board, “no enforcement action has been taken against the property,” county records show.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The administration tent is where adult volunteers will rotate sleeping shifts.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The administration tent is where adult volunteers will rotate sleeping shifts.

Members of the Board of Adjustment have to consider a variety of factors that impact the ability to conclude that:

* The use will not materially endanger the public health or safety if located according to the plan submitted and approved;

* The use meets all required conditions and specifications;

* The use will not substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting property, or that the use is a public necessity; and

* The location and character of use, if developed according to plan as submitted and approved, will be in harmony with the area in which it is to be located and in general conformity with the Richmond County Land Use Plan.

Members of the board include: Harvey Melton, chairman; Fred Morris, vice chairman; Greg Norton; Gerald Witherspoon; Jim Lambeth; Richard Williams; and Mark Savage. Tim Hayden is an alternate member. The decision requires a simple majority for the conditional use permit application to be approved or rejected.

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  • rick

    I hope the board will find that this property is a public necessity and OK the use. These are the people who have fallen thru the cracks of the social system in America. They need help for a multitude of reasons. Please don’t be critical have a heart. Please post this-this time.

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