I served on the Orange County Board of Commissioners during the years of 1983 through 1986. During that time I was always a proponent of attracting good, clean, high-paying, low water using commercial and industrial economic growth that would provide good jobs along with the taxes they would pay that was needed to provide Orange County with funds to enable us to have the best schools, law enforcement and numerous other needs. This would enable Orange County residents to work, play and continue to live here with a quality of life that would be the envy of all of North Carolina. I was encouraged to do so by the fact that through our County we have U.S. 70, dual I-85/I-40, with a four-lane connector between, along with the main line of the Southern Railway running parallel through our county. Problem was that the majority of the Board had virtually no interest in pursuing such growth in that it would contaminate the county waters and invade the natural elements in the county. This caused regular and ongoing disagreements between board members.
During my tenure on the board, I was attending a meeting in Raleigh. Upon its adjournment I was proceeding to another meeting and crossed a river bridge at which time I spotted quite a large industrial complex on the other side that appeared to be within a few hundred feet of the water, with a large parking lot full of cars. How could this be allowed? I was so concerned that I turned into the visitor parking lot, went to the office and requested to see the General Manager. I was invited into his office where I introduced myself with a question of “how can you operate this facility on the banks of the river and not pollute it.” He explained that this location had approximately 3,000 employees and was as environmentally sound as any business in North Carolina, and that no one could show that his company was in any way polluting the river. After a half hour conversation, and questions from me relative to his operation that should I be in a certain area of western North Carolina he would like me to meet with his company’s environmental chief and would set up such a meeting. Several weeks later while in this area I accepted his offer and visited with this individual. First off, he stated that he would talk to me on condition that I would not reveal their company name as they had a policy of not being involved in local politics. I agreed, and spent the greater part of an hour learning how they operated in areas all over the country and used precautions to remain environmentally sound in that all chemicals and fuel utilized in his companies operation exceeded local, state and federal guidelines. He then explained that they had operations in various areas of North Carolina and the entire country but would never consider one in Orange County. His reason was as follows of which I took careful notes word for word as follows:
1. “People are begging us to locate in their area”
2. “We have located in many areas creating multimillion dollar payrolls”
3. “Cost of doing business in Orange County is too high, environmental requirements are unrealistic, far more stringent than federal guidelines”
4. “Could not expand when necessary due to over stringent regulations”
5. “Orange County acts like they have New York City as their tax base”
6. “We can’t employ lawyers to fight such regulations, too expensive, we just stay away”
7. “I question whether Orange County can continue to exist with their present attitude”
Orange County has continued to exist due to the fact that in spite of where we are located with the arterial roads and etc, our citizens have been and are still being charged with the highest property tax in the entire state causing many to exit Orange County as they cannot afford to live here. With the their recent decision relative to economic growth and high taxes will Orange County residents ever see any relief?
Ben Lloyd is a long time resident of Efland. He and his family own and run the Barn At Lloyd’s Dairy.