The action came at Monday's regular meeting of the Elizabethtown Town Council.
During its work session Monday afternoon, the board decided to shorten the moratorium from six months to three. The board also voted to exclude four properties that do not directly abut the bypass. Those properties include land owned by Stewart Norris, Farm Bureau and two parcels owned by Nellie Faye Outlaw.
The move does not affect any construction projects that have been issued permits.
During the three month period, commissioners will work to come up with a plan on what types of development should be allowed on the bypass, as well as where and how much.
The council chamber was nearly filled with residents, businessmen and landowners who spoke out against the move.
During a public hearing held before the vote, Ricky Leinwand was one of a handful of residents who spoke out in favor of the moratorium.
"As a resident and a businessman," Leinwand said, "I want to see progress in Elizabethtown. I love this town. But we need orderly growth...or we will see the loss of downtown business, too."
Businessman David Clark asked why the board had decided to address the issue.
"Where did the initiative for this come from?" he said. "I haven't heard any hue and cry about development along the bypass."
"This is not the easiest town to do business in," Clark said. "You can't hold businesses prisoner. They have to be able to grow, or they'll go elsewhere."
Ron Taylor, an outspoken opponent of the moratorium, said the perception of the moratorium would do more damage that it helped.
"This will limit growth," he said. "We don't need to limit growth-we need to encourage growth."
Mayor Pro Tem Sylvia Campbell read a portion of an editorial from the Sampson Independent, praising Elizabethtown's growth and protection of the downtown area. The editorial was written as the town of Clinton was considering a downtown revitalization project to replace businesses lost to outlying shopping centers.
"That's why we want to do this," Campbell said. "Nobody wants to stop growth-but we need managed growth. The board needed some time to examine this deeply and do what seems best. We don't want to turn our backs on the bypass, but we don'' want to turn our backs on what we have now, either."
Commissioner Herman Lewis said he wants to see the town grow, but said the town needs to be careful.
"We don't need growth just for the sake of growth," he said.
"I can't stand the idea of telling people what to do with their property," said Commissioner Scott Ussery, "but we've got to get a handle on this thing."
Lewis made a motion to pass the three-month moratorium, with a second from Patrick Devane.
The measure passed 4-2. Commissioners Lewis, Devane, Campbell, and Ussery voted in favor. Commissioners Rufus Lloyd and Russell Priest voted against it.
The moratorium automatically expires at the end of the three-month period. If commissioners make a decision on the bypass before then 90 days are up, the moratorium can be lifted.