Northampton County Conference Center

Northampton County released this rendering of the Northampton County Conference Center at Lake Gaston in a recent special meeting. 

Northampton County on Monday approved the purchase of 0.51 acres of land to be used in conjunction with its Edwards Beach project, which includes plans for a conference and wellness center on Lake Gaston.

The Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved the $285,000 purchase from Grover and Lucy Edwards following a public hearing that was live-streamed on the county’s Facebook page.

The lot had already been targeted for purchase by the county going back to its initial acquisition of Edwards Beach project parcels in 2019.

Shortly before the motion to approve the sale carried, Northampton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charles Tyner said, “We worked hard on this. We worked day and night on this to ensure the people on the west end will enjoy the same kind of services we have on the eastern end.”

The board detailed plans for the conference and wellness center in a Dec. 2020 special meeting at the Lake Gaston Community Center and then, Tyner rebuffed many of the concerns that have been raised by local citizens. He billed the project as offering the citizens of the western part of Northampton County the same opportunities as those on the other side.

On Monday, Tyner said the board had taken into account the public’s concerns and that he appreciated both positive and negative feedback.

“But this board has determined that this would be a project we would do on the western end of the county,” Tyner said.

One other commissioner, Nicole J. Boone, added further comments on the purchase, saying she felt like the citizens’ questions had been answered and she was “just ready to move forward with this project.”

County attorney Scott McKellar described the newly-purchased half-acre lot as a waterfront parcel on Lake Gaston that is due south of the previous six acres the county purchased in 2019, and also due south of an additional three acres the county has an option to buy.

$30,000 of the purchase price was to be paid at the time of closing with the remainder set to be financed over the next 6.5 years.

One of the public concerns that Tyner addressed on Monday was that there aren’t enough people in the western part of the county to support the two-story, multi-faceted facility with walking trails and boat slips/docks.

Tyner believes the population is there to support it and mentioned attracting residents from as far away as 20 miles in Garysburg, which is east of both Roanoke Rapids and Weldon. Northampton County is the 33rd largest county (out of 100) by square miles in North Carolina but only a small portion of it borders Lake Gaston.

“The tax that we receive from the western end of the county - It is a large amount,” Tyner said. “It is perhaps larger than any other part of the county, per population.”

Tyler said since those residents are paying their “fair share” of taxes, they deserve the same resources as other parts of the county.