The Merriam-Webster definition of prejudice is as follows: Injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights.
The ugly face of prejudice reared its head once more in my life last week; and this time, I’m not going to sit quietly and pretend it didn’t happen. This time I am going to confront the wrongful accusations and misinformation that turned a simple zoning meeting into a witch hunt. This time I’m going to give those who accused me the facts they require and maybe, just maybe, they will listen and learn something.
On April 9, I attended the Town of Holly Ridge town meeting to have the board consider my application to rezone my property located off of N.C. 50 and outside the city limits of HollyRidge. This application was at the request of HollyRidgeand I obliged them (at the cost of $250). I was told by the Town of Holly Ridge the meeting would be to discuss rezoning only and no other aspects would be addressed at this time — sounded fair enough — so I arrived with maps and documents in hand that Tuesday evening.
Upon arrival, I was told to sign up if I wanted to speak. I explained that I would be presenting maps and documents about the property. They informed me that I would have three minutes and that was all. I found this odd; shouldn’t people know what we are discussing?
When the meeting began I noticed that my rezoning application was the only item on the agenda. I wondered what number I had been assigned to speak about the rezoning. Of course I would be one of the first, right? Wrong again.
The meeting was called to order and a few items were read before the subject of the zoning was announced. Heather Reynolds, town clerk, who timed each person for three minutes, began by reading two emails she claimed had been sent by people who could not attend.
From the first sentence I knew that I was witnessing a disaster in the making. Lies and untruths were read aloud with no chance for me to challenge or correct. This is democracy? After the second letter folks from the audience got up and continued the odd array of attacks on my gun range. Now I understood what an innocent person wrongly convicted of a crime feels like while watching their life be determined by lies. It is a terrible and sickening feeling.
By the end of the roller coaster full of attacks on our second amendment rights, I was given three minutes to speak. Knowing that my fate had been predetermined already and certain that they would now deny my zoning request NOT ON FACTS, but on emotions, my pride called me to address the folks in the room, eye to eye in my restricted time of three minutes.
I would like to state for the record that my zoning request had been passed by the zoning board with a recommendation for the zoning change to be allowed. This fact was never brought up at the meeting. The proposed rezoning was to take my property from R-15A (which allows trailer parks and more fun stuff like that) to R-20 which would RESTRICT the use of my own land and basically lower the value of my land, not neighboring properties. This was never addressed. What that means in simple terms is that I would need 20,000 square feet per lot per house if ever developed, up from the 15,000 of R-15A.
Many local residents do support the Second Amendment and were not given the opportunity to voice their opinions last week at the supposed zoning meeting. On Friday two families that live in the Neighborhoods of Holly Ridge came to my shop to apologize for not attending the meeting on my behalf. They had received a letter from the Neighborhoods of Holly Ridge HOA shortly before the meeting advising them to come to the meeting to prevent their taxes from going up and their property values from dropping. FALSE. I assured them that nothing I did on my property would make their taxes go up and that it was absurd to suggest such a thing. I am not even in the city limits of HollyRidge; I am in OnslowCounty. They agreed and said that they knew better.
A man also called me to complain that his emailed letter sent to the Town of Holly Ridge prior to the meeting and in support of my zoning (also another resident of the Neighborhoods of Holly Ridge) had not been read at the meeting and he was very upset. I wonder what happened to that email.
With the limited time allowed Tuesday evening, I could only do so much, so in next week’s column I am going to take a bit more time now to address the specific concerns that were raised.
As my typical closing, I must remind you all: Knowledge is power and the day that you start letting prejudice make decisions for you, that power goes away and becomes something ugly — and this world needs more smiles than frowns.
Dorothy Royal is the owner of Surf City Guns and Ammo, mother of two wonderful children, ringmaster of a herd of miniature ponies and an avid member of the Surf City Writers Group and Topsail Book Club.