Lenoir opens zoning to drug makers

Feb. 19, 2014 @ 09:05 AM

It just got easier for pharmaceutical companies to find a place in Lenoir to open new operations.

The Lenoir City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to add pharmaceutical manufacturing to the list of permitted uses in general business zoning districts, which will allow pharmaceutical companies to reuse some properties in Lenoir considered "greyfield" sites, places that are economically outdated or underused, such as the Lenoir Mall.

Planning director Jenny Wheelock she and her staff recommended the change after fielding several questions about the reuse of properties in general business districts and why pharmaceutical manufacturing wasn't on the list. It's a clean business, all indoors and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, she said.

Wheelock used the example of Exela Pharma Sciences, which bought and is renovating the former Broyhill Furniture Industries headquarters on U.S. 321, a vacant building that could have been considered a greyfield site before.

Also Tuesday, Fire Chief Ken Briscoe presented the Lenoir Fire Department's annual report for 2013, showing the department responded to 2,624 calls throughout the year, including 137 fires and 1,585 medical calls.

Briscoe said that in 2013, the department received more calls than in any other year of the past decade except 2006, which had just two more calls.

The department held on to its Class 4 ranking from the Insurance Services Office, which quantifies fire risk in communities and affects fire insurance prices. Briscoe said only 41 of 1,500 fire departments in the state have a better ranking than Lenoir, and next year the department hopes to improve to Class 3.