Rezoning for Dollar General denied in Liberty community

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Liberty community turned out in force Monday, successfully lobbying Rowan County commissioners to deny a rezoning on Stokes Ferry Road.

Traffic-related concerns took center stage as commissioners unanimously voted to deny a rezoning for a developer that sought to build a Dollar General near the intersection of Stokes Ferry Road and St. Matthews Church Road. Dozens of people attended the meeting specifically for the rezoning and a parade of the attendees spoke in opposition. The opposition ranged from traffic to sex offenders being near school children.

Multiple representatives of Venture Properties — requesting a rezoning from rural agricultural to commercial, business and industrial — attended Monday’s meeting and spoke in favor of the rezoning. Mostly, the developers said the rezoning fit within the county’s land use plans.

The meeting was loud at times, but less raucous than an August Planning Board meeting, when the rezoning also got denied.

Misty Trexler, who lives in the Liberty community, focused on how the Dollar General might add to traffic associated with the nearby Morgan Elementary School. Trexler said her husband owns a nearby trucking company. The company’s truckers often experience difficultly navigating traffic when school lets out, Trexler said.

Rick Tutweiler, who owns a nearby business, said Liberty is a quaint community. The rezoning may have fit within the county’s land use plan, but Tutweiler said Dollar General wouldn’t be beneficial to the community.

The public hearing lasted more than an hour before commissioners took their turn talking about the rezoning.

Four of the five followed up the public hearing with a short speech. Commissioner Craig Pierce was first. Pierce started out by saying the county’s land use plan is a guide rather than a concrete set of rules.

“It doesn’t mean that just because you meet the criteria you get a green light,” he said.

Pierce, who previously lived in the area, said he’s often traveled through the Stokes Ferry and St. Matthews Church intersection and knows it can be treacherous to travel. He said it’s more than an intersection, it’s a community.

“These people need to be treated as if this is their home because it is their home,” Pierce said.

The property owner has a right to sell the property to be rezoned too, he said.

“But I also have to think that if that house has been there since 1900 that her family would not want to harm the community with the sale of that property.

Commissioners as a whole discounted the idea that sex offenders would gather at Dollar General because it is near an elementary school. At one point, a representative of the development group said there’s no direct correlation between Dollar General stores and violent or sexual crime.

Commissioner Judy Klusman, who spoke next, said it bothers her when rural farm land is sold and developed. People need to also have the right to sell their property too, she said.

Before votes were taken, Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds gave a lengthy speech. Edds weighed both sides of the argument, but said it wasn’t the county’s job to protect businesses in a capitalist society.

“This is new commerce,” he said. “It creates new jobs, new tax base and that is a good. It is not up to us to protect other retailers. It is not up to us to decide what retail is good or bad for a community. The market determines that.”

Though he seemed to favor approval for much of his speech, Edds said he still saw a problem with the rezoning. Edds said he drove out to the site and he “can’t see putting that facility at that site.”

Commissioners, however, are only allowed to consider the rezoning by itself — from rural agricultural to business — and not base the decision solely on a potential use — Dollar General in this case.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.