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Planning board votes against proposed Zaxby’s on Jake Alexander

There are two ways to describe Tuesday’s Salisbury Planning Board meeting.

One way is to say: The Planning Board voted against adding jobs and tax revenue to the local economy during its meeting Tuesday when board members voted against recommending a zoning change that would allow a Zaxby’s restaurant to be built along Jake Alexander Boulevard.

The second way is: The Planning Board stood with business owners and residents when it voted against a proposed restaurant that people said would cause traffic headaches and disrupt the harmony of the area.

Of course, it all depends which side of the issue you’re on.

John and Joan Leatherman have been in discussions with the owner of Zaxby’s on Faith Road, Gina Dickens, to build another Zaxby’s on land owned by the Leathermans at the intersection of Jake Alexander and Castlewood Drive, right in between two office complexes.

But the 1.4-acre site needs to be rezoned from Mixed Residential to Highway Business to allow for the restaurant.

And, for some business owners and residents in the area, that’s the problem. During the meeting’s public hearing, people opposing the plan said rezoning two small parcels of land, and part of a third, would disrupt the order of the area, and that putting a drive-thru restaurant there would cause traffic headaches.

The office complexes on the east side of Jake Alexander act as a buffer for the neighborhood on Rosemont Street directly behind the office buildings.

Speakers said the rezoning would be a hindrance to that buffer.

Alan Burke, of Alan Burke CPA, said a drive-thru at the site would be detrimental to his business — directly adjacent to the site.

He said putting a restaurant there would block his parking lot’s right of way , cause traffic problems and is not sensitive to the current pattern of development.

The entrance to the restaurant would be at the traffic light at Jake Alexander and Castlewood. The restaurant would be separated from the offices to the north by landscaping. The drive, which leads to an alley that runs behind the complexes, would separate it from the offices to the south.

Dickens, who owns the Zaxby’s on Faith Road, said if the restaurant is built, it will employ 50 to 60 people.

“We really want to grow to a second location on Jake Alexander,” she told the board.

Restrictions set in the Conditional District Overlay for the site state the hours of operations for any restaurant built there would have to be between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Dickens said the hours would likely be 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

John Leatherman said he estimated building the restaurant would add $10,000 to the city’s property tax revenue and bring in $70,000 in sales tax.

He told the board he has done everything requested of him and that the Conditional District Overlay meets all the recommended requirements.

The Leathermans tried last August to get the site rezoned, but the Planning Board shot the plan down.

At the time, Planning Board members expressed concerns about some of the more intensive uses Highway Business zoning would allow and how disruptive they might be to offices already in place and the residential areas nearby. The board recommended a Conditional District Overlay for the site be developed.

The CD was developed with restrictions that allow only a drive-thru restaurant to be located at the site.

There was opposition to the rezoning even though there are two drive-through businesses, Biscuitville and Taco Bell, just up the road, which sees more than 35,000 vehicles a day, according to Preston Mitchell, the city’s planning and development manager.

Dianne Greene, a real estate agent who operates out of an office building near the proposed site, said she doesn’t want Jake Alexander Boulevard to turn into East Innes Street, which is flooded with fast-food joints.

“So many businesses have come here, and their CEOs will not live here because they think Salisbury looks like East Innes Street. … We’ve lost a lot of businesses because of the inconsistency of the way our streets look,” she said.

Gretta Saunders, who lives on Rosemont Street, said, “Another restaurant, more noise.”

“Leave us alone,” she said, “We don’t need another restaurant.”

Chris Cohen spoke in favor of the plan and said the city needs to support growth.

“Let’s be progressive and be positive,” he said.

City staff had recommended the Planning Board approve the rezoning and master plan, stating that the request is not inconsistent with the city’s Vision 2020 Plan. But board members went in the other direction.

Board member Josh Camp said he does not think, from a design perspective, that the plan is consistent with the city’s vision.

Board member Jo-Ann Hoty said she doesn’t understand the need for a restaurant that would operate seven days a week when everything around has normal business hours and is closed on weekends.

Chairman Carl Respher said the plan doesn’t fit the continuity of the area around the site.

In the end, eight board members voted in favor of a motion to recommend denial of the plan. Randy Reamer voted against the motion.

The Leathermans can still take the issue to Salisbury City Council, which would have final say on the matter.

“If you can’t put a Zaxby’s on Jake Alexander, where can you put one?” John Leatherman said after the hearing.

“The city wants mixed-use development. They don’t want everything looking the same. But they flip-flop,” he said.

Regarding the comments by business owners and residents, he said, “What you have many times is a fear of change.”

He said the same concerns arose over the Taco Bell on Jake Alexander, but that it’s been a great neighbor and has fit in very well in the area.

“We don’t need the tax base? We don’t need the jobs? … Really?” he said.

He said he and Dickens will decide whether to bring the issue to City Council.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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