Mount Olive approves zoning for apartments

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Mount Olive commissioners unanimously approved a Jacksonville developer’s rezoning request last week, paving the way for a new apartment complex north of town.

Developer Mark McCloskey asked the town board to change the zoning classification for an 8-acre tract on U.S. 117 Alternate from agriculture to office and institutional. No one spoke in opposition.

The site is known as the “Merritt property” and is on the west side of U.S. 117 Alternate as it intersects with Northeast Church Road.

McCloskey wants to built a 72-unit housing complex that will provide one- to three-bedroom apartments at a price range of $300 to $1,100 monthly.

His preliminary plans call for construction of a $1.3 million complex that will include 12 one-bedroom apartments, 36 two-bedroom apartments and 24 three-bedroom units.

He is currently awaiting approval of state grant and loan funding to finance the project.

The complex, McCloskey said, will also feature a playground and “tot lot” area, covered picnic areas with tables and grills, an outdoor seating area and a community building with a computer center, a multipurpose room and a covered patio to seat 150.

Mayor Joe Scott, who nearly two years ago campaigned for meeting housing needs in Mount Olive, said it’s been 10 years since there was a request for a housing development and all the previous requests were denied.

“All our citizens deserve affordable housing,” Scott said.

He noted that recently two other potential developers expressed interest to locate and build here, but both fizzled out.

Scott told meeting attendees he is also interested and working on providing additional and needed Section 8 public housing needs.

He called meeting housing needs in Mount Olive something that the current board is “committed to.”

“We have a plan to make this town grow, but we want to be careful and make sure that growth is in a orderly manner,” the mayor said.

Town Manager Charles Brown said the daily population on Mount Olive increases by 30 percent from commuters who travel and work here. He said these are people who would live, play and work in Mount Olive if housing was available.

Brown said the rezoning is a “giant step” in meeting growth needs.

Commissioners also deeded a portion of the old Carver School on South Breazeale Avenue to the Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency.

The transition, officials agreed, will assist as the group applies for federal grant money to make renovations and other improvements.

WAGES currently provides a Head Start program at the old school site and plans to relocate its senior citizens’ programs there.

The board also approved a proclamation designating the month of April as Pickle Festival Month in Mount Olive.

Commissioners approved a resolution to issue a $712,000 in sanitary sewer system bonds and to close the bond issue on April 16.

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