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The continued study of a multimillion highway and road project that will continue eastward expansion of Roanoke Rapids got a closer look by the city’s planning board Thursday evening.

That meeting came on the heels of a group of local government agencies which have been gathering since 2019 to discuss the project — the extension of Premier Boulevard to Highway 125, the extension of American Legion Road to intersect with Premier, and the multi-lane widening of Highway 125 — which is being overseen by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and comes with a $25 million price tag.

Planning and Development Director Kelly Traynham wrote in a memo to the board that the future of the project is dependent on utilities and adherence to land development regulations.

She told the board the group of government representatives has come up with a zoning concept of the area which is still under review and discussion.

Those agencies, Traynham wrote in the memo, are seeking “to gain a unified understanding and development approach for this transportation project area.”

The project traverses the jurisdiction of multiple agencies including the city and county, Roanoke Electric and Dominion and the Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District and Halifax County Public Utilities, hence the need for these groups to come together to discuss the project, which is expected to be completed early next year. 

Currently, the project area is predominately used for agricultural, farming and rural residential purposes. The city’s primary authority within the project area involves land use matters, such as zoning and development permits, for properties within the city limits and the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The preliminary concept the group has come up with has the proposed zoning along American Legion Road as B-4 as that classification is traditionally designed for highway business usage such as those along Julian R. Allsbrook Highway, Tenth Street and Premier, Traynham said. 

Adjacent to the Nature’s Trail subdivision the preliminary consideration is for a B-3 zoning which could accommodate non-retail uses such as offices and hair salons, while still allowing multifamily uses.

“I like the concept,” said planning board Chair Gregory Browning. “I do feel growth is going to be expedited in the long run.”

Traynham said there’s been some early interest in the project and there is a retail study being conducted.

Community meetings are anticipated to gather input from residents.

The project mirrors the eastward expansion of Roanoke Rapids over the last 30 years, which has provided “direct access to local commodities that fuel economic development and regional prosperity,” she wrote in the memo.

“It could have a big impact on the city and the county,” said Councilman Wayne Smith, who serves as a liaison to the planning board. “There could be an increase in sales tax revenues. It could be a big benefit to the city.”

Planning board member Sherry Mills said of the project, “I think it would be more attuned for development to have that connectivity. I hope it happens sooner than later.”