N.C. East Lake will bear zoning, but public is wary [The Virginian-Pilot]
(Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 16--EAST LAKE -- Surrounded by a wildlife refuge, a community along U.S. 64 populated with more bears than people soon will join the rest of Dare County and get zoning.
In the past two years, about 150 residents of East Lake near the Alligator River have seen the construction of a crematorium, cell towers and sand mining pits. Fearful of a proliferation of businesses, the reclusive community went to the county for help.
"We do not want to change our way of life," said Rosemarie Doshier, an East Lake resident. "I think they believe this is the last frontier."
After workshops and public hearings, Dare County commissioners are set to approve next month a zoning map of four areas for residential, small business, intensive commercial and natural lands. Homes would be allowed in all four districts.
Residents hope zoning will protect their way of life without too much intervention.
"When you zone something, you got to do what the other fellow says," said 89-year-old Minnie Spruill. "Some of it, I like, and some of it, I don't."
Spruill has lived in the same house along the highway for 50 years. For nearly 30 years, she was the postmaster. The tiny, old post office building still sits in her front yard. Spruill's home is tidy, but she lives near a mix of well-kept houses and run-down mobile homes with junk-cluttered yards. Unkempt or not, most are hidden behind a line of trees and brush with only a narrow, unpaved entry.
East Lake had its beginnings in the 1800s, when a lumber company harvested old-growth trees in the nearby forest and founded Buffalo City. In its prime, the town grew to a population of 3,000 and was the largest community in Dare County. The lumber industry rose and fell over the next few decades. During Prohibition, moonshiners took advantage of the isolation and ample hiding places to build liquor stills. After Prohibition, the whiskey trade diminished, and so did the town.
More than 300 bears roam through the 152,000-acre Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge that envelopes the East Lake community. Bears amble through the neighborhood, roaming from the refuge habitat on the south side of the highway to the refuge on the north side.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation might widen the highway, a main artery from Raleigh to the Outer Banks. Spruill said she worries that even if zoning protects her from intrusive commercial neighbors, highway expansion may force her from her home.
"It's disturbing my mind not knowing," Spruill said. "I would like to be here when my last breath goes."
Jeff Hampton, 252-338-0159, email@example.com
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