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Greensboro, Toyota pact upsets local officials

LIBERTY — An amendment to the water and sewer agreement between the City of Greensboro and Toyota Battery would create a mile-wide zone around the megasite solely for heavy industry.


During a meeting in May, the Greensboro City Council passed a resolution to amend the agreement with Toyota that will limit development within the Greensboro Randolph Megasite Enhanced Area. 


According to the amended agreement, “As set forth in the Master Agreement, uses within the Enhanced Area that are provided water/sewer service by the City are limited to intense industrial manufacturing whose principal activity is assembling, fabricating, or manufacturing of goods in connection with the operation of factories, processing plants, and similar sites.”


The resolution and amended agreement were listed on the Consent Agenda of the overall meeting agenda. Items on the Consent Agenda are normally passed together without discussion.


The action occurred while Randolph County is working to amend its Growth Management Plan, primarily for the northeast quadrant which included the megasite. Hopes are to provide guidelines for growth in the coming years that will balance economic development with maintaining the rural nature of the area.


During a meeting of the Randolph County Growth Management Plan Steering Committee on May 18, Jesse Day, planner for the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, informed the members of the Enhanced Area and the plans for it to limit development around the Megasite.


Randolph County Manager Hal Johnson said, “Toyota wanted a mile-wide development zone for no development besides industrial. We learned on May 16 that the Greensboro City Council had received a request from Toyota for no development in water/sewer other than heavy industry. Greensboro passed (the resolution and amendment). I wish they had had conversations with Randolph County.”


Kevin Franklin, president of the Randolph County Economic Development Corporation, didn’t think the amendment completely limits activity within the area: “It doesn’t mean there can’t be other things.” 


Greg Flory, executive director of the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority, agreed: “If the county decides, it can do whatever it wants.” He noted, however, that Greensboro could refuse to provide water and sewer services to anyone not deemed industrial.


Darrell Frye, chair of the Randolph County Board of Commissioners, said he had not seen the documents approved by the Greensboro City Council but that he had heard of the implications.


He said Greensboro, which had agreed in 2015 to provide water/sewer to the megasite, had agreed, when Toyota announced in December 2021 that it was coming, that it would not allow anyone to tap on until the city knew what Toyota’s needs were.


“But the issue here is, it’s not Greensboro’s business to direct land uses and development for another county,” Frye said. “Part of the reason for the Growth Management Plan is for running water and sewer service (in the northeast quadrant of the county) to whoever we want to.”


Frye said the county has applied with the NC General Assembly for funds to expand Ramseur’s sewer treatment plant by 1 million gallons per day in order to serve that area. There are also talks to expand public water into the northeast quadrant.


“Several months ago, Toyota asked for a limit to development in that area,” Frye said. “Both Randolph County and Guilford County said no.”


When asked, Frye said he believed that most of the land within the one-mile enhanced area is zoned Residential/Agricultural. “We’ve had no requests to do differently,” he said. “A company would have to request rezoning (before the Randolph County Planning Board)” before developing industry in the area.


The Greensboro action concerning the Megasite Enhanced Area, Frye said, “was done without discussion or involvement with Randolph County. It’s not up to the City of Greensboro to direct land development in another county. 

“I would like to have thought we’d have had some participation” in the decision.


Attempts to talk to Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughn and City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba about the matter have been unsuccessful.