Rezoning involves old sign, new lawn and garden shop

  • Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:52 a.m.

SALISBURY — A lawn and garden center plans to open in the former Salvation Army at 520 S. Main St., prompting a lengthy discussion Tuesday among Salisbury Planning Board members about a sign in front of the building and rezoning.

Chris Biesecker will open Salisbury Power Equipment March 7, according to landlord Victor Wallace and real estate broker Bryce Beard.

Biesecker owns and operates Kannapolis Power Equipment and Lexington Mower Service and has the largest Husqvarna dealership on the East Coast. He is advertising for full-time parts and sales associates for all three stores.

Wallace and Beard asked the Planning Board to recommend rezoning the property from its current hodgepodge of downtown mixed-use, general residential and historic residential zonings to corridor mixed-use.

But Randy Hemann, executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc., said the real intention of the rezoning request was to avoid removing a sign in front of the building.

If the property ever changed hands, rezoning the parcel would allow for 75-foot setbacks and several undesirable uses “so we can save a sign,” Hemann said.

While insisting he does not oppose the development, Hemann said the Planning Board would put the objectives of the Downtown Master Plan at risk by recommending corridor mixed-use for the location.

“I suggest that you find another way to solve this issue and form a committee to ensure that we preserve the intent of the master plan adopted in 2010,” Hemann said.

Hemann said he respectfully disagreed with Preston Mitchell, the city’s Planning and Development Services manager who acknowledged that while the rezoning is not entirely consistent with the Downtown Master Plan, the overall objective is preserved.

Planning Board should wait for a corridor study of South Main Street before recommending rezonings that allow parking in front of buildings and uses that would not complement the downtown, Hemann said.

But the board already had set a precedent, members said.

Last month, the board recommended rezoning the Lyerly Funeral Home property directly across the street from the old Salvation Army.

Brent Lyerly, who is rebuilding his funeral home after it was destroyed by fire, also asked the board for corridor mixed-use instead of downtown mixed-use. Lyerly wants the new building set back from the street farther than the 10 feet allowed in downtown mixed-use.

The Planning Board agreed. Ultimately, City Council must approve rezoning requests.

Mitchell acknowledged that rezoning the Wallace property to corridor mixed-use would save the sign Hemann mentioned. Mitchell also said city planners tried to convince Wallace and Beard to change the sign to the smaller, five-foot-tall monument-style sign allowed in downtown mixed-use.

But Bryce said they want to keep the original sign, which is mounted 20 feet high on a pole.

“If we take the sign down, we start disassembling what is history,” he told Planning Board.

Built in 1957, the facility was originally an A&P grocery. Planning Board members don’t need to worry about the rezoning harming the property in the future because the building isn’t going anywhere, Beard said.

“We are all on the same team,” he said.

With a viable tenant who can make a good living, the building and business will remain for years and attract more people downtown, Beard said.

After the meeting, Wallace and Beard said Biesecker is making a major investment in the building and plans to stay for years.

Regardless of zoning, the old A&P building, which sits 155 feet from the street, does not conform and is grandfathered. Downtown mixed-use requires buildings to stand 10 feet from the road with no parking in front.

Corridor mixed-use allows buildings to stand 75 feet from the road, with two rows of parking in the front.

But signs are supposed to be brought into compliance when businesses change. With corridor mixed-use, the sign at Salisbury Power Equipment can remain but must be lowered by two feet.

Downtown mixed-use requires a smaller sign on the ground.

With the building so far off the road, the business needs a larger, taller sign, Planning Board member Josh Canup said.

Based on their previous support of rezoning the Lyerly property across the street, Planning Board members ultimately agreed to recommend rezoning the Wallace property to corridor mixed-use, despite an inconsistency with long-range planning strategies.

“How do we vote against this when we allowed it with Lyerly, and they don’t even have a building there,” Planning Board member David Post said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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