My Turn: More pie in the sky

Published 12:45 am Monday, June 13, 2016

By Larry Bowyer

The Salisbury City Council’s ideas about appropriate zoning changes are, to say the least, arbitrary.

At the June 7 council meeting, Mayor Alexander rambled on for 29 minutes explaining why she would vote for spot zoning for the Catholic Church property at 128 North Fulton Street. In addition to sharing the fact that she graduated from college with honors, she mentioned that the property in question was historic and that the folks who want to buy the property have said that they want to restore the property as a part of their proposed new business. The new business will be named The Abbey; it will be a wedding venue with retail space.

There are more than a few problems with the mayor’s ideas. The church property is not a designated historic landmark, but it is adjacent to a residential historic district overlay and the majority of the residents have made it very clear that they do not want the zoning for this property changed to accommodate this new business. If the zoning ordinance is changed, all control over the types of businesses that can operate at that location is changed. What if the Abbey is not successful? The owners could easily sell the property to someone who will tear down the church and build whatever they chose to build.

The mayor, Councilman Post and Councilman Miller do not seem to have a very realistic view of the current small business climate. There is no guarantee that the wedding venue will be profitable for the owners. They may be out of business in a year. At the council meeting, there was wonderful speculation about all the new jobs this business would bring, but that is unrealistic. We were told that local photographers, florist and caterers would benefit from this business, but again we have no guarantee.

The Dienfenbachs, the prospective buyers, own a wedding venue business about 25 miles from Salisbury. I am sure they are already well established with service suppliers. Why wouldn’t they continue with the suppliers that they already know? We were told that James Meacham, director of the Tourism Authority, said the new business would bring $1.8 million into the community. How did he come to that conclusion? We were not given that information. Do you remember when the TV folks came to Salisbury to film “Sleepy Hollow?” All the restaurants got excited and thought they would make a killing. As you may remember, the film company brought their caterer with them — there was no surge of business for Salisbury. Pie in the sky is just pie in the sky!

A few years ago, the city zoning office wanted to help the folks in East Square neighborhood obtain spot zoning on East Innes Street to prevent the New Waffle House from opening. The location had been zoned for business for years. More recently, when an established local business owner wanted to expand and open a new Zaxby’s on Jake Alexander Boulevard, which is a business corridor, the council said no because it would cause too much traffic. Now, the council wants to allow a spot zoning change for a business that will cause noise and traffic problems in a residential neighborhood. How can these decisions possibly follow the city’s strategic plan? Where is the logic? It seems that some of our council members change their minds about zoning like they change their underwear!

 Larry Bowyer lives in Salisbury.

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