ROCKY MOUNT — The Franklin County Board of Supervisors hopes the third time will be a charm for obtaining an enterprise zone designation.

The board unanimously voted Tuesday to apply to the state for the designation, which promotes economic development by offering incentives to new and expanding businesses, said Michael Burnette, Franklin County’s economic development director.

Though the supervisors agreed the county should apply, it seems unlikely this year will yield different results. The applications are reviewed on a 1,500-point scale — 750 possible points for the application narrative, and another 750 possible points based on a distress score.

Last year the county scored well on its application narrative at 651 points, but its distress score was only 216. This year it looks as if that number will be even lower, at 212 points, Burnette said.

In essence, the county is doing too well to qualify for the designation.

“Bad news for this application, but great news for the citizens of Franklin County because that means our economy’s in good shape, unemployment is staying low and incomes are staying high,” Burnette said.

The application process is very competitive, as there are a set number of zones that become available each year, Burnette said. Zone designations last for 20 years and then have to be renewed.

Board Chairman Cline Brubaker said there is an opportunity to learn from the application process, even if it doesn’t work out.

The application required a public hearing, but no residents came forward to address the board. The application is due Aug. 1.

Pipeline concerns heard

During the public comment portion of the meeting, a member of Preserve Franklin, a group opposed to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, asked the board to adopt a resolution to help them access information on erosion and sediment control plans for the project.

The resolution asks that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality require pipeline developers to provide such plans and that they be made available to the public. It also asks that pipeline officials and third-party inspectors meet with local officials to discuss their plans before beginning construction.

Michael Carter, a Rocky Mount resident and business owner, presented the resolution to the board. “Review it, change it, but give us something to defend our lands against this corporate entity,” he said.

When the supervisors discussed the resolution later, Supervisor Ronnie Thompson asked that the issue be addressed as an agenda item at a future meeting. He said he fears citizens feel ignored by the board, and members need to show that, while they have not taken a position for or against the pipeline, they do hear the concerns.

Brubaker said it’s important to remember that this group of vocal citizens is not necessarily representative of the entire county. He said many people have told him that they are in favor of the pipeline, but are afraid to say so publicly.

Ultimately, the board decided it would have a briefing of sorts on the issue at a future meeting, during which an official would discuss erosion and sedimentation. It will give residents an opportunity to learn about the issue, but not to voice concerns in a public hearing.

Casey Fabris covers Franklin County, Rocky Mount and Ferrum College.

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