SMITH: Speak now or live with the consequences 

FILE: A man practices at a shooting range

Speak now or forever hold your peace. 

No, I’m not referring to a wedding, but rather to the latest stunt by Scotland County to cram through controversial rezoning laws and stifle citizen voices.

Scotland County’s mission is to, “Protect the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens and promote prosperity and well-being for the people of Scotland County.” This is curious given County leaders are pulling out all the stops to help a for-profit Washington, DC defense contractor avoid public scrutiny by rewriting zoning rules, rather than standing up for the welfare of our citizens. 

While most Scotland County residents have been busy grappling with the health and economic challenges of the pandemic, County leaders have been working behind the scenes to rush through sweeping changes to County zoning laws that could have a devastating impact on our community.

In an upcoming meeting, Scotland County Commissioners will be asked to allow tactical training facilities in Neighborhood Commercial Zoning Districts without input from neighboring property owners. So yes, if you live in or near one of these districts, your neighborhood and farms could soon be turned into a war zone with explosions and live gun fire, unlike the existing training on Camp Mackall, which has no explosions and only uses blanks.

To make matters worse, County leaders seem determined to push through these changes quickly without citizen input. They went as far as to silence neighbors attending the Planning & Zoning Committee Board meeting on July 29 and disconnecting call-in attendees. The County Attorney and Board Chair literally walked out while my neighbors were trying to express concerns after not being allowed to speak.

For me, this issue is personal. An out-of-state defense contractor, Defense Government Contracting International (DCGI), is proposing to build a tactical training facility right next to my property without input from me or my neighbors. 

I’m the owner of Pine Lake RV Resort in Wagram. We are prided as a quiet, serene park where families come to relax in nature and enjoy our lakes, creeks and abundant hiking trails. Visitors from both near and far frequent our resort located on 100 acres among North Carolina’s famous Long-Leaf Pine trees. This could all soon be at risk with the pending zoning changes. Campers and outdoor recreationalists don’t want to be woken in the middle of the night by grenade simulations or machine gun fire. They don’t want to be choked by heavy black smoke from explosives while hiking. Or have their groundwater polluted by lead and chemicals from nearby explosive materials, which will also harm native North Carolina wildlife.

Without requiring a special use permit, DGCI’s compliance with environmental and other issues will be left unchecked, threatening the well-being of my guests and our community at largeThe proposed zoning amendment would waive these requirements and essentially rubber-stamp this facility, and others in the future.

With the proposed zoning changes, this could be a personal issue for you too.

This is not good for Scotland County residents, the environment, or the future of our great community. The County is essentially allowing DGCI and its lawyers rewrite the Scotland County Zoning laws and are scrambling to pass them. Any company interested in building a combat or tactical training facility in our community should be required to obtain a conditional use permit, and be subject to a public hearing process. 

We elected our County Commissioners to look out for our best interest, not to bow down to for-profit Washington corporations at our expense. I’m calling on all Scotland County residents to stand up and be heard! If we don’t speak up now, we will be forced to “forever hold our peace” and to live with the consequences.

Vickie Smith is the owner of Pine Lake RV Resort in Wagram.