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My Turn by Karen C. Young: ‘Spot zoning’ vs. wise growth

The attempt to rezone John Leatherman’s  lot on Jake Alexander Boulevard to accommodate a drive-through restaurant seems reasonable on the surface. However, the hearing before the Salisbury Planning board brought out many factors which dictate no change from the present zoning: mixed use residential. Heavy traffic, access and current office and residential use persuaded the Planning Board to deny a change although sympathy was with Zaxby’s owner.
The board considered that Castlewood Drive is only one block long and is privately owned, with no turn lane into this private drive nor room to add one. Customers entering from Jake Alexander to a busy restaurant would interrupt the traffic flow along this thoroughfare, creating a safety concern. There is no rear access to this lot except a narrow, privately owned alley that could hardly serve delivery and garbage trucks.
Current use avoids the East Innes Street congestion, which is unattractive and difficult. Starting at the Chevrolet dealership all the way to Taco Bell there is no commercial development on what is a very narrow strip intended as a buffer  to residential use.
Most important is the residential designation of the current zoning. People live there. Behind this strip is the stable Rosemont neighborhood, which has been struggling against commercial development since 1984, when Mr. Leatherman first attempted commercial development along this strip. The proposed building is approximately 100 feet from the back door of these houses.  Increased noise, lighting and hours of operation, now controlled, would  have a very detrimental effect on this stable middle class neighborhood. Across Jake Alexander Boulevard Boulevard is multiple residential development with two new apartment complexes as well as Castlewood townhouse development, all served by another one-block-long Castlewood Drive.  The current N.C. Bank really is a “bookend” to commercial development protecting residents of this dense area.
 As intended, owners of the offices along the strip offer the correct buffer between the busy highway and residents on both sides. The proposed Zaxby’s would protrude beyond current setbacks, obscuring these offices.  Mr. Leatherman referred to this restaurant as a “bookend” between it and Taco Bell correctly zoned when they purchased their lots. Who puts a bookend in the middle of the bookshelf?  Because the current offices are not interconnected, the offices could become somewhat landlocked.  Restaurant customers would be inclined to park in the office lots and walk to the restaurant. The offices are owned by people who thought they were correctly zoned.
To make a change smacks of “spot zoning.” Current zoning reflects all the development this area can bear.  One Planning Board member commented at the end of the hearing that while he is pro-business, he could not think of one reason to vote for a change. The reason we have this process is to make sure that growth is wise growth.
Karen C. Young lives in Salisbury.

My Turn submissions should be 500-700 words. Send to elizabeth.cook@salisburypost.com with “My Turn” in the subject line. Please include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself, if possible.

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