The county commissioners heard more than two hours of what many listeners called tedious testimony yesterday on a proposed rezoning that would allow a Gamber landowner to carve five housing lots out of farmland.
The commissioners said they would review the record before making a decision on the 11-acre parcel on Niner Road near Route 32.
Officials said the property is considered a remainder - land left over after the allowable number of buildable lots from the original farm has been reached. The commissioners ruled last week against a similar proposal made by a Woodbine developer and said they wanted remainders to continue as agricultural land.
"The fact that this is a remainder will be a factor in my decision," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier.
In this case, Robert C. Brothers created four building lots several years ago from his 35-acre farm, using one for his home.
Brothers, who has owned the property for nearly 50 years and resides there, requested a rezoning 13 years ago for the remaining 11-acre parcel. The county's rejection of that request was upheld by the Circuit Court.
He has applied again for rezoning on the 11-acre parcel, but the county planning commission and its planning department oppose Brothers latest request. Jeanne Joiner, bureau chief of planning, called it "spot zoning in the middle of an agricultural area."
But Clark Shaffer, attorney for Brothers, said residential zoning "makes the most sense." He argued there was a mistake in the original zoning and a change in the neighborhood's character - criteria necessary to rezone.
"There is clear example of change and it comes down to common sense," said Shaffer, who repeatedly detailed the new businesses, traffic increases and expansions of the local elementary school and volunteer fire department as examples of how Gamber has changed in the past 22 years.
Brothers said the parcel is too isolated for any conditional use in the agriculture zoning, such as a church. Farmers are no longer interested in leasing a small parcel and have difficulty maneuvering equipment along Niner Road.
About a dozen neighbors attended the hearing; a few had questions specific to their properties. One opposed the issue.
"Houses create problems for any additional farming in the area," said Robert Clark, who farms an adjacent property. "We have already had protests against the farming that we do now."