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Planning Board says no to Dollar General in Liberty community

After nearly two hours of discussion and public comments, the Rowan County Planning Board on Monday voted not to approve a rezoning that could place a Dollar General Store in the Liberty community near Morgan Elementary School.

A parade of Liberty community residents prior to the vote spoke against a rezoning from the rural agricultural classification to commercial, business and industrial. A Dollar General is proposed for the site. Concerns ranged from traffic problems to convicted sex offenders being near school children.

Among the speakers was Liberty Fire Chief Darrin Trexler, who said a total of 58 traffic accident calls have occurred at the intersection of Stokes Ferry and St Matthews Church roads in the previous seven years. The intersection is adjacent to the site proposed for rezoning.

Trexler said traffic often backs up during school hours. Adding a retail store would only worsen traffic problems, he said.

Parents of children who attend Morgan Elementary School said the proposed business could attract sex offenders, which would be within a few dozen feet of small children.

Others said they moved to the rural community to get away from city life. Although several other, nearby land parcels are zoned commercial, business and industrial, speakers said none of the parcels contain operating businesses. Trexler joked that a nearby cemetery — zoned commercial, business and industrial — isn’t generating much business activity.

The raucous crowd laughed in unison after Trexler’s remark. Throughout the meeting, the more than 50 people often applauded speakers who opposed the rezoning.

A representative of Venture Properties, who was requesting the rezoning, characterized the multiple associations made as untrue, and said he wouldn’t want to be associated with a development that posed the sorts of threats described Monday. The Venture Properties representative was heckled after speaking for more than three minutes — the allotted time for public comments.

Following a lengthy public comment period, the planning board also debated the merits of the rezoning.

Planning Board Member Joe Coladarci said residents of the Liberty community were essentially dictating what types of businesses were allowed to operate in the area by not allowing the Dollar General store. He referenced a nearby family owned convenience store as an example of a business that would be allowed.

“This community is making this land worthless,” Coladarci said.

The audience members fired back at Coladarci, and he responded to the remarks. Coladarci asked why community members hadn’t previously addressed traffic concerns if the school caused significant backups.

Planning Board Member Rip Kersey said the rezoning would be easy if it was handled by a computer, but the personal and emotional appeals made it more difficult. Kersey offered a required statement of reasonableness — the rezoning was not consistent with the public’s interest based on traffic patterns at existing schools. It was seconded by board member Pete Bogle. Coladarci was the only one opposed.

Kersey also offered a statement of consistency — the rezoning was consistent with the county’s eastern land use plan because the area was designated as a node for future business development. Board member Blake Jarman was the only one opposed.

Coladarci was the only board member opposed to the final vote to recommend denial of the rezoning request.

Next the rezoning will be considered by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, who could decide to approve it or side with the planning board and deny the rezoning.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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