County shuns News-Journal, sends planning notices to Fayetteville newspaper

By Catharin Shepard • Editor • After the News-Journal filed a lawsuit over public records, Hoke County Commissioners told at least one county department to post local public notices in the Fayetteville Observer instead of the News-Journal.

Public notices about a proposed rezoning and an application for a special use permit in Hoke County were posted in the Fayetteville Observer and were not sent to the News-Journal. The public hearings involved property and citizens in Hoke County, and took place Monday night at a Hoke County Commissioners’ meeting.

Asked if the newspaper had missed the notices, Hoke County Planner Jeff Dockery said in an email, “You did not miss it. The Commissioners directed us to post the notices with the Fayetteville Observer.”

The apparent action was in keeping with what sources told the News-Journal several weeks ago: that at a meeting in early May, county department heads were allegedly told not to send items for publication to the News-Journal.

County Attorney Grady Hunt previously told The News-Journal that he was not in any such meeting, but the county would continue to send public notices that are legally required to run in the local newspaper.

The News-Journal has continued to receive some public notices from county departments, including one published in today’s issue about a public hearing for the county budget. That public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Monday, June 17 at the upcoming county commission meeting.

The notices in question that were not sent to the News-Journal included an application for special use permit, SU-24-3, submitted by Marshall Newton for use of a self-storage leasing site at 469 Pittman Grove Church Road; and an application for general use rezoning, RZ-24-6, submitted by Efrain Carrasquillo to rezone a .63-acre parcel located at 292 Grenada Road from Residential Agricultural (RA-20), to Neighborhood Business (NB).

The News-Journal received and published public notices for SU-24-3 and RZ-24-6 in April, before the two matters went before the county planning board. The News-Journal never received the same notices for the county commission meeting held this Monday. The notices were posted in the Fayetteville Observer May 22 and May 29, 2024.

Another legal notice of a public hearing for the upcoming Hoke County Planning Board meeting was posted to the Fayetteville Observer May 30, 2024, but was not sent to the News-Journal. According to the public notice, there will be a public hearing Thursday, June 13, 2024 at 7 p.m. in the Pratt Building at 227 North Main Street in Raeford for the purpose of hearing an application for a special use permit SU-24-4 submitted by AGS Land, LLC for the use of townhomes, on 56.1 acres of land on Scull Road. The property is currently zoned Residential 8 (R-8). All interested citizens are invited to attend the hearing and be heard.

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