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Taco timeout: Council delays decision on restaurant

By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
Representatives of the Salisbury City Council will hear ó once again ó from individuals wishing to express opinions about a site plan for a proposed Taco Bell on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
A committee of Mayor Pro Tem Paul Woodson and Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy will meet at noon on Aug. 17 to hear from residents who live close to the site for the proposed fast-food restaurant.
This will mark the second time neighbors have had the opportunity to speak to Woodson and Kennedy about the proposed restaurant. The council members also met with group members on July 24.
But during the council’s monthly meeting Tuesday, Woodson said he wasn’t ready to vote on the matter and said he felt residents deserved another chance to be heard. Woodson said he was on vacation last week and since his return, he’s been inundated with phone calls from individuals wanting to express their opinions on the matter.
“I had a lot for and a lot against” the proposed restaurant, Woodson said. “I don’t really want to vote on it today.”
He said that as a result, in order to make sure everyone involved has a chance to speak, he felt another meeting was necessary. “We’ll listen and see if we can work out something,” Woodson said.
The 2,755-square foot restaurant would be built in a vacant area just south of the Pizza Hut takeout location at the corner of Jake Alexander and Mooresville Road. It would have right-in and right-out access to Jake Alexander Boulevard. Customers could also enter and exit off Mooresville Road by using a private drive at the rear.
Woodson said four buffers ó three rows of trees and a fence ó would separate the restaurant from its neighbors. He said residents have expressed concern about lights and noise from the restaurant.
But Woodson said a number of others have expressed their support of the project.
“I don’t want you to think everyone is opposed because they’re not,” he said.
Kennedy said he’d also heard from a number of people concerning the matter.
“We want everybody to have the opportunity to speak to us,” he said of the Aug. 17 meeting.
Councilman Mark Lewis said turnout for that meeting is important. “Everything is back on the table,” he said.
Following the meeting, Woodson and Kennedy will report back to the board.
In past council meetings, Senior Planner Preston Mitchell has said the proposed Taco Bell meets all past special conditions placed on the property, even though those conditions prohibited “drive-in restaurants.”
Mitchell said that to the zoning administrator, drive-in restaurants are like Sonic or What-A-Burger and not a fast-food restaurant with inside seating and a drive-through window. Fast-food restaurants were not prohibited under the existing Conditional District overlay.
The proposed Taco Bell met all other criteria for setbacks, including height and more.
In other matters Tuesday’s meeting, council members:
– Approved a site plan for a Marriott-Courtyard hotel off East Innes Street near Cracker Barrel and Wal-Mart. The hotel will include four stories and 94 rooms.
– Heard a presentation from Layton Woodcock, director of the Salisbury Housing Authority, concerning Carpenter’s Corner Apartments, public housing units for low-and moderate-income elderly. The apartments were recently completed at Old Concord Road and South Shaver Street.
The 11 buildings feature 22 duplex apartments. They were constructed where the housing authority’s Lincoln Park Apartments once stood.
Woodcock gave a slide presentation of the apartments. “We wanted to get away from the cookie-cutter look and stereotypical public housing,” he said.
Woodcock said the apartments, which cover 4 acres, cost $2.7 million.
– Heard from Police Chief Mark Wilhelm, who reported his department is receiving a $646,924 grant through Community Oriented Policing Services. He said the money won’t go for equipment, only for personnel. The police department lost money for officers when the Rowan-Salisbury School System cut money for middle school resource officers.
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Staff Writer Mark Wineka contributed to this article.

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