Tonight if you are able please attend the meeting of the Newport Town Council, if you cannot please urge anyone who can to attend. The meeting will take place at 6pm at the Newport Town Hall. If you cannot attend, you can always call the Newport Town Hall and ask to speak with the mayor or manager to express your concerns over the threat of development to the site at 252-223-4749.
If unchecked development is to take place, we will lose this site forever. Please do what you can to help, every bit helps!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Before I go further with my thoughts on this matter, I would like to state that the purpose of this blog has never been, nor will it ever, be political in nature. The purpose of this site was, is, and will continue to be a place where information, primarily on the Battle of Newport Barracks, can be shared in hopes that it can shed light on the events that took place in and around Newport during the Civil War. This is an emotional issue for me in that I feel a strong connection to the site and to those men who struggled there 145 years ago. For a number of years researching the various aspects of the battle and the site has been a passion and a labor of love for me, so clearly I do have a biased opinion on this, but I hope that it is not viewed as a political position as I feel this issue transcends political ideology.
On Friday, October 30, I was informed about the public hearing taking place in regards to the request for rezoning of the 44 acres that includes the site of the Newport Barracks, as well as the location of the final phase of the February 2, 1864 battle there. My initial reaction was one of sadness at the prospect that a historical site that is very close to me personally will begin to feel the pressures of development that have long threatened other historical sites in the last 30 years.
I expect that the motion requesting to rezone the area will be approved, thus paving the way for a future development on the site. While no actual plan for development has appeared, the approval of the motion will undoubtedly put that process in motion. You do not put on a football helmet unless you are going in to play in the field, and you do not rezone an area to residential unless you have options or a plan in mind. With that said I do not believe that this request or any future development at the site is malicious in nature, nor do I feel the people involved harbor such feelings. What I am concerned about is the lack of concern or consideration of the site and the events that took place there. It has been stated that now is not the time to look into that and once a plan is in place it should be considered. I personally feel that is a narrow-minded and short-sighted means of going about this. The time to consider this is now, and the more time in discussion and deliberation can only be beneficial in the long run.
Now in a perfect world the best case scenario for this site would be for it to be preserved and interpreted correctly for future generations of visitors. At the end of the day this is what I would like to see done, but I also understand that politics, practicality, and the power of the all mighty dollar come into play. I am not, nor was I, anti-growth during my time on the council and I was always a proponent of smart growth. I often said there was a way for the town of Newport to grow in a manner that was beneficial to the citizens, as well as preserving the identity and heritage of the community. Now, more than ever, local governments are feeling the crunch of the current economy on their budgets, and any chance to increase the tax base and revenue should be considered. Also for consideration should be the impact that the growth will have.
I hope that any decisions that are made are not made in haste, but after a deliberate and thorough period of consideration. Any plan for development should look at including provisions for adequate archaeological study of the area, in addition to a plan of historical interpretation of the site. Often politics is a study in compromise, and I am open for such on this issue. I believe that ultimately there is a way to have smart development in a way that can still preserve the historic nature of the site and allow for a proper interpretation that would educate and enrich the lives of not just citizens, but visitors to the site.
Carteret County is a county that lives and dies on tourism money, but Newport sees but a fraction of the overall money spent by visitors to the county during the year. By interpreting this site it will create an immediate draw for people to come into the town of the Newport and hopefully spend money in the community. Historical tourism is a big, and lucrative, business. Beaufort and New Bern are perfect examples of this, and while Newport would never receive the same amount of that proverbial pie, it still does not mean they should not at least sit at the table.
I am more than willing to help the town, and any developers of this site, in any way I can to insure that a proper plan of development is implemented. I would also be happy to develop a plan of interpretation for the site, and I would do so free of charge and I sincerely hope the town might consider me for such.
In the end the men who fought, and in some cases died, at Newport Barracks deserve to have their story told and remembered in a way befitting their memory. Simply paving over the site and throwing up houses does not honor or remember them, and in some ways is a desecration of their memory. I know that the people of Newport, and the government that represents them, values the history and heritage of the town. Those are two of the many qualities that make Newport special. While I no longer live in Newport, I still consider it home and consider the site of the Newport Barracks sacred ground, and I am convinced that a plan can be put in place that can be beneficial to all and insure that the most historic location in Newport is not simply bulldozed over and forgotten.
- I will be writing more on this subject later in the day, but I wanted to share the article that appeared in the Sunday, November 1 edition of the Carteret News-Times. Already the site visits to the blog has jumped since the publication of the article online, so I welcome all first time visitors to the site and I hope that your visit here helps to educate and enlighten you on the events that took place in and around Newport during the Civil War.
Civil War site targeted for rezoning
Published: Sunday, November 1, 2009 1:06 AM EST
NEWPORT — Town council will consider Tuesday night a rezoning request that involves a Civil War site here.
The board is set to meet at 6 p.m. at the town hall. Two opportunities for public comment are on the agenda in addition to two public hearings for rezoning requests, which will be held soon after the start of the meeting.
Ballou Enterprises of Morehead City seeks to change various zoning classifications now in place for property it owns at the end of Fort Benjamin Road, off East Chatham Street near Newport Middle School to an all-encompassing R-20 residential classification. That would allow for development of home sites of about a half-acre each.
The site and the battle that took place there are the subject of an historical marker on East Chatham Street (Old Highway 70) and also described on a state Civil War Trails marker at the corner of Main Street and East Railroad Boulevard.
The roughly 44-acre parcel currently falls into a “mixed bag” of zoning classifications including R-20, R-15 and industrial warehouse, Town Manager Dick Casey said Friday.
Mr. Casey said he was unaware of any expressed concerns regarding the significance of the site or any town policy in place for handling historic preservation concerns.
“I don’t think we have a specific procedure for that but it would be part of the whole review process,” said Mr. Casey.
John Davis, chairman of the town planning board, which already reviewed the request, said the potential historic significance was discussed but, so far, no subdivision plans have been submitted.
“But we really didn’t have any discussion of what the impact would be,” he said. “It would become an issue once a subdivision request is submitted.”
According to CivilWarTraveler.com, Confederate soldiers built the barracks here early in the war but they were occupied by Union forces during the Fort Macon operations in 1862. A battle here in early February 1864 resulted in a short-lived Confederate re-occupation of the area.
Former Newport Councilman Eric Lindblade, now living and working at the Gettysburg, Va., historic site and set to release a book on the battle of Newport later this month, said any development of the site would be a tragic loss.
“It’s a pretty significant historic site in that not only were three Union regiments at that site through the duration of the war but it was also the scene of the battle of Newport Barracks,” Mr. Lindblade said.
He said Carteret County has already lost many of its Civil War sites to development, such as the site of the Bogue Sound Blockhouse now part of Brandywine Bay near the corner of McCabe Road and Highway 24. That site is also marked on a Civil War Trails marker at Gethsemane Cemetery.
“If a subdivision comes in, you’ll lose an entire battlefield in Newport,” he said. “The site, there is obviously not much out there now and I’ve never heard of any efforts to preserve it, but this is a battle site where three members of the 9th Vermont won the medal of honor. Nowhere else in Carteret County can make that claim and there’s a chance Confederate soldiers are still buried on that site.”
Mr. Lindblade’s book is based on years of research of the Newport battle. He also recently purchased a U.S. flag that was flown over Newport Barracks by the 9th Vermont. He has posted photos of that flag on Facebook and on his Civil War blog site at http://newportbarracks.blogspot.com.
Calls made Friday to Ballou Enterprises’ listed phone number were not answered.
The other rezoning public hearing on the agenda concerns a request for a townhome development just off Roberts Road. That request relates to a subdivision zoning nuance few other than bank loan officers would appreciate. But it does reflect the current state of the residential lending market.
Developer Kim Willis, a former member of the County Board of Education, plans to build townhomes on the sites of two former mobile home parks, which have since been cleared, in the town’s one-mile extra-territorial jurisdiction outside the corporate limits. Town building inspector Bob Chambers described those parks at “substandard.” Although there will be no difference regarding the construction, a zoning change is needed to allow the units to be sold as townhomes with the developer’s desired layout.
Originally planned as duplex apartments to be sold as condominiums, Mrs. Willis was previously granted a special-use permit to build four duplexes on the north side of Oscar Hill Road and three on the south side. Two units have since been built, along with a common sewer system and well to accommodate four buildings and a paved driveway on the north side of the property. But the economic downturn made financing condos “impossible,” according to Mr. Chambers’ report to town council.
“She now wants to convert the whole project to townhomes,” Mr. Chambers said.
That’s because banks are more willing to make loans for townhomes, he said.
“A condominium is an ownership concept only and has nothing to do with the construction or type of building,” Mr. Chambers said, adding that the buildings in place are “structurally independent.”
The only zoning classification that would allow the type ownership and site plan desired is a planned unit development (PUD).
PUD approval is a multi-step process, beginning with the council’s approval of a sketch plan. Then, a hearing must be held for the PUD zoning amendment and conditional use permit. The town planning board must review the preliminary plat prior to that hearing. The preliminary plat will be presented to the public at the hearing.
At the close of the hearing and after council deliberates, there is a three-part process for PUD approval, including a vote to approve the zoning amendment for Phase 1 on the north side of Oscar Hill Road and Phase 2 on the south side; a vote to approve the conditional-use permit for phases 1 and 2 and requirement of organization of a homeowners association; and a vote to consider the plat on the north side of the road as “Phase 1 final,” which will allow conveyance of the two buildings (four units), which are ready for occupancy.
The Phase 2 final plat for the south side of the road will be presented for council approval at a later date.