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County funds playground, approves children’s home rezoning

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NASHVILLE — Nash County commissioners on Monday approved funding for new playground equipment at the Spring Hope Community Park and approved a rezoning that will allow the Free Will Baptist Children’s Home in Middlesex to expand facilities on its campus.

The board followed up on an interlocal agreement with the town of Spring Hope to purchase new playground equipment for up to $52,500 in exchange for the town’s increasing its annual payment to the county for park maintenance from $7,000 to $10,000 per year.

The equipment is to replace donated wooden playground equipment installed at the park a few years ago. It fell into poor condition and was removed last year to make way for the replacement set.

County Finance Director Donna Wood told commissioners the winning proposal for the equipment was from Site Concepts for $49,493, which was quickly approved.

Completion of the project is scheduled for March, she said.

In another action affecting southern Nash County, commissioners approved a request to rezone the 37.78-acre Free Will Baptist Children’s Home campus on Buck Deans Road near Middlesex from a combination of A-1 agricultural and R-40 single-family residential to a singular OI office and institutional.

The children’s home, established in Middlesex in 1920 long before the county was zoned, is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization that operates an on-campus residential care program and a family foster care and adoption program, as well as before- and after-school and summer programs for community children.

The campus is only a portion of a larger, roughly 377-acre tract. Planning Director Adam Tyson told commissioners the children’s home is classified under the county’s unified development ordinance as an orphanage as well as a legal, nonconforming land use which does not meet all the UDO’s current requirements.

Tyson said the children’s home wants to celebrate its upcoming 100th anniversary by constructing two new cottage dormitories, but the county’s restrictions on nonconforming land uses restrict its ability to alter or expand the existing campus.

He said the office and institutional zoning district “is specifically intended to accommodate public and institutional land uses such as the home as well as various other limited-support retail and commercial services and higher-density residential uses.”

Rezoning the children’s home to OI would recognize the campus as a permitted land use and allow the home to alter or expand the layout of the campus within the designated zone, Tyson said, including the intended new cottages.

Tyson said the only other OI zones in the county are the Nash Community College campus on Old Carriage Road and Nash Correctional Institution on U.S. 64 Alternate, “both of which serve a public purpose to the benefit of the community similar to the children’s home.”

After the required public hearing, in which nobody spoke, the board unanimously made the necessary motions to approve the rezoning.

In other business, commissioners accepted the annual audit report presented by auditor Stuart Hill of Alan W. Thompson, CPA, of Whiteville. The county continued to have a generally clean audit with no major issues or material errors, though some mistakes were caught in handling the federal Medicaid program and supervisors agreed to increased reviews and additional training to avoid future errors.

According to the financial statements, the county in 2019 had total general fund revenues of $93,901,625 and spent only $91,122,123, ending the year with a total fund balance of $43,308,053.