CRAVEN COUNTY - Craven County residents like Russ Carlson could soon see some changes along Highway 70. New Bern officials are considering expanding the city's extra-territorial jurisdiction along the U.S. 70 commercial corridor in the James City area south of the Trent river.
"There's still a lot of blight coming down from James City coming all the way down. I'd like to see some old buildings torn down and have some new stuff put in," Carlson said.
City Engineer Jordan Hughes says the goal is to encourage business development.
"That doesn't imply annexation," Hughes said. "It won't require any city of New Bern taxes for areas in the ETJ. It just allows us, the city of New Bern, to set up zoning and help with planning efforts."
This extension would allow city officials to enforce zoning regulations and codes. It could also mean an upgrade to the area's sewer system to allow building in that part of the county.
Alderman Denny Bucher says it's a lot of farm land now, but is a great place to provide services to those who live on that side of the river.
"People that live on this side of the river spend a lot of trips going over the river to buy things and get services, and that'll change if we can open this corridor up for development," Bucher said.
But Don Rogers fears that this project could change New Bern's atmosphere.
"We've lived in New Bern for 14 years," Rogers said. "We've traveled the East Coast, and we really like the small-town feel. As far as commercializing the area, we have no problem as long as we can retain that small-town feel."
Officials say those areas unincoporated wouldn't have to pay New Bern taxes but also wouldn't have services such as fire or police protection provided.
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