The push to legalize more casinos in North Carolina appears to be a dead issue for now in Raleigh, but the controversy in Rockingham County flared up at a meeting of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners on Monday, Oct. 16.
The item that raised the ire of casino opponents was on the consent agenda for the Rockingham County commissioners meeting, which passed unanimously. Items on the consent agenda are supposed to be “noncontroversial,” but in this case, replacing two members of the Rockingham County Planning Board raised controversy.
The item on the consent agenda was to appoint H. Keith Duncan and Benjamin “Bernie” Parnell to the Planning Board for three-year terms. There was no mention in the agenda attachments about who Duncan and Parnell would be replacing.
During the public comment period, Doug Isley, a member of Citizens for Good Growth In Rockingham County, an organization that opposes building a casino in Rockingham County, spoke about the appointment of the two new members to the Planning Board and noted that they were replacing Jim Fink and Cyndy Hayworth.
Both Fink and Hayworth, as members of the Planning Board, voted against rezoning 192 acres on US 220 near the Guilford County line to Highway Commercial – a zoning district that allows casinos and entertainment districts.
However, on Aug. 21, the Rockingham County commissioners overturned that decision, voting unanimously to rezone the land to Highway Commercial.
Isley said, “This board has taken upon itself to talk down to its appointed members that you all voted for. You basically said they weren’t qualified. I think Ms. Hayworth has got like 42 years of experience and now she has been pushed off the board. Did anyone on staff or any commissioner call them and them that were going to be removed?”
Chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners Mark Richardson interrupted Isley, saying that Isley was violating the county policy for speakers, but Isley said he was not in violation of the policy and continued to speak.
Rockingham County Attorney Clyde Albright said that Fink’s term on the Planning Board had expired in 2021 and that Hayworth’s term expired in September of this year.