69 Day Permitting Process In Smithfield Takes Less Than 1 Hour In Selma
You may have noticed several roadside produce stands popping up in Selma recently. The reason may be due to the town’s commitment to cutting through red tape and making it easy for farmers to sell their fresh fruits and vegetables to the public.
“Agriculture is a big part of our past and a big economic component of our local economy today,” Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver told JoCoReport.com.
Cottle Farms of Faison is a good example. When the 4th generation family farm wanted to open up a roadside strawberry stand on US 301 in the Smithfield city limits it took them 69 days from the time they sought permission from the Town of Smithfield Planning Department until the request was approved by the town council. They also had to buy a $300 permit.
In Selma, the same farming operation paid a $50 permit fee at the town hall, filled out a short form, and opened up the same day.
Selma Councilman Tommy Holmes says the Town wants all businesses, large and small, to flourish. That’s why he and the other town board members this week unanimously approved an amendment in their regulations to ensure growers like Cottle Farms can operate without any unnecessary red tape.
Holmes said strawberry producers don’t have time to wait on city hall for a permit as their growing season typically lasts about 12 weeks. Cottle has been selling their products in Selma for 9 seasons. This is their first in Smithfield.
No Incentive To Locate In Smithfield
In Smithfield, the process began on February 24th for Cottle Farms with several pages of paperwork, a required appearance before the planning board, a public hearing, and a vote before the Smithfield town council. They got the approval they needed on May 3rd, 69 days later.
“Unfortunately, this is the process under the current UDO (Unified Development Ordinance),” said Smithfield Mayor Pro Tem Emery Ashley. “We have discussed this type of scenario and the issue is the conditional use as opposed to a permitted use under the zoning classifications. As part of our undertaking to revise the UDO, we will be looking at permitted uses and conditional uses in the different zoning classifications. I anticipate changes – although the committee and the Council will make the ultimate decision – that will streamline the process for this type of situation. But yes, it does seem a bit lengthy for the situation.”
Smithfield Town Manager Michael Scott agreed. “We are trying to evaluate the manner in which Smithfield does business with all of its business partners. We must have a process in place and adhere to that process, but we also want to be certain we are making it simple and easy as possible for businesses and agricultural organizations to become part of the community. This is extremely important to the Town and its future.”
Smithfield’s current produce stand regulations were adopted in 2008. No change has been made to them in 8 years. Town leaders are looking at revising the ordinances this Fall. However, that will not help farmers who may want to sell their produce in the Smithfield city limits this summer, who don’t have two months or more to wait to see if they are approved.
Johnston County Makes It Easy
Like Selma, Johnston County wants the process to be easy for farmers. Johnston County Planning and Zoning Director Berry Grey tells JoCoReport.com that in nearly every case farmers can sell their produce without having to apply for a permit or pay a fee.
“Roadside produce stands are a win-win for farmers and our citizens,” Selma Mayor Oliver said. “They provide a venue for farmers to sell the fruits of their labor and provide our citizens with fresh, healthy food.”