Dollar General proposal raises concerns about development north of Salisbury

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, March 1, 2022

SALISBURY — Ivan’s Restaurant may have been closed Monday, but a group of eight community members gathered at the Old Mocksville Road eatery around 11 a.m. anyway.

They were there to compose their thoughts and strategize in anticipation of the Salisbury City Council meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

On the agenda was a rezoning request to allow development of a Dollar General on the lot across from Ivan’s Restaurant at the intersection of Old Mocksville Road and Seventh Street Extension. The request from Daniel Almazan and Teramore Development is to rezone the property to corridor mixed-use with a conditional district overlay. The site would accommodate a 10,640-square-foot Dollar General store, which is larger than the 10,000-square-foot limit allowed under the current zoning.

The request attracted passionate pushback from local residents who voiced their opposition at two recent Salisbury Planning Board meetings. The Planning Board approved the proposal by a 4-3 vote at its first meeting but reversed course and unanimously voted against the request at a meeting last week. The denial came as board members cited safety concerns and inconsistencies with the city’s Vision 2020 plan.

The Salisbury City Council has the ultimate say on the rezoning. However, at the request of Teramore Development, the matter was axed from the agenda and will not be considered by the council Tuesday. The applicant has not indicated when or if they will ask for the request to come before the council.

That’s all the same to Joe Sims, Ben Fisher and others who met at Ivan’s. While they are opposed to the Dollar General specifically, their concerns about the future of Old Mocksville Road are broader than just the ubiquitous convenience store.

“It’s not as much about Dollar General as it is about the community’s needs,” said Sims, the owner of Ivan’s Restaurant.

Fisher, a local developer who lives on Old Mocksville Road, shares a similar viewpoint.

“To me, (Dollar General) is not the issue,” Fisher said. “The issue is appropriate development for the area.”

Sims and Fisher appear have support in their quest. Close to 600 people have signed an online petition started by Sims to stop commercial zoning in the neighborhood. The petition reads: “As the community and neighborhoods continue to expand, it is extremely important that our planning and zoning board put a plan in place to improve road conditions, put in sidewalks and protect the public health and safety.” Sims said he has collected 75 handwritten signatures on the petition as well.

Rethinking the road

During the two public hearings regarding the Dollar General, opponents of the store described Old Mocksville Road as dangerous to drive. In addition to people driving to and from their homes, the road is frequented by ambulances heading to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and school buses, Sims said. Opponents argued a Dollar General would only exacerbate the problem by increasing traffic and bringing more large delivery trucks to the road on a regular basis.

“I drove that road today in our Ford F-150 pickup truck and it was narrow when a car would come toward me as it was traveling in the other direction,” Lora Owen wrote in a letter addressed to the Planning Board. “This was in our truck, not to mention how narrow if you had tractor-trailer truck making deliveries to a Dollar General. We have wondered for years and years while the road was never widened.”

Kelly Seitz, an NCDOT district engineer, agrees Old Mocksville Road is narrower than most, but he said there are similarly narrow roads elsewhere in the county.

At the most recent Planning Board hearing, one resident claimed to have measured lanes on the road in front of the property at just over 16 feet total. Engineers hired by the developer, however, said they measured lanes to be 10 feet wide. The road is 18 feet wide from one edge of pavement to the other near the proposed Dollar General, according to Seitz. The road’s width depends on where and how it is measured, Seitz said.

Seitz said there are no plans to widen Old Mocksville Road in the next five years.

About 4,500 cars drive on Old Mocksville Road each day, according to Seitz. That would be enough cars to warrant road improvements if the entrance to the proposed Dollar General was on Old Mocksville Road. But the entrance to the Dollar General would be on Seventh Street Extension. Seitz said Dollar General stores are usually visited by 500 or fewer cars per day, which is not enough to generate a traffic study. He said Seventh Street Extension’s daily traffic volume is about 1,700 cars, which is also not enough to initiate road improvements.

Sims said the reality is most people visiting Dollar General will use Old Mocksville Road to get there.

Sims said he and others have contacted the NCDOT about their safety concerns. They also plan on broaching the topic with the Salisbury City Council.

“Let’s improve the conditions of the roads before anything else,” Sims said.

Seitz said NCDOT will examine crash data from Old Mocksville Road to determine if there is a legitimate safety issue on the road.

Conducive to the neighborhood

Besides the site of the proposed Dollar General and the property where Ivan’s Restaurant is located, most of the land bordering Old Mocksville Road within Salisbury city limits is zoned some form of residential. Neighborhoods on the road including Country Club Hills, Eagle Heights and Polo Commons contain several hundred homes.

Along with concerns about road traffic and safety on Old Mocksville Road, Sims said he and others prefer the property not to be developed commercially. Instead, they want to see a dog park, community garden or something similar. Sims said he’s interested in purchasing the property to ensure it becomes something “more conducive to the neighborhood,” but isn’t sure that’s an option. Sims said he made an offer to purchase the property in the early 2000s, but the offer was not accepted.

The property could be rezoned back to residential or another category, but that process would require compliance from the property owner.

A history of opposition

This isn’t the first time residents living on Old Mocksville Road have rallied against a proposed commercial project at the site.

Attempts to rezone the property in 1986, 1987 and 1989 by an out-of-state company were met with “substantial neighborhood opposition,” according to minutes from a Salisbury City Council meeting. Each time, the rezoning request was denied despite receiving support from the planning staff.

The property was rezoned successfully in 2003 without much documented opposition. Rodney Queen requested a rezoning from single family residential to retail trade business. Queen said he first intended to build a gas station at the site, but realized a convenience store would be better.

Queen, who served on the city of Salisbury’s Land Development Ordinance Committee around that time, said it was determined by the committee commercial was the “highest and best” use for the land. Queen also served on the Salisbury Planning Board, but recused himself when the board approved his request for rezoning.

Queen’s rezoning request was unanimously approved by the Planning Board and Salisbury City Council. Only one person spoke in opposition to the rezoning during the council meeting. Queen said he believed lack of opposition was due to a general desire for commercial development on the land.

Sims and Fisher theorize the rezoning could’ve been approved without much pushback because the public was not aware of what was happening. Sims, who has owned Ivan’s since it opened 33 years ago, said he didn’t hear about the rezoning request until after it happened.

At that time, a public notice of a rezoning request only had to be mailed to property owners within 100 feet of the property. Now, property owners within 250 feet of the property are notified. In this case, notice was sent to 16 different property owners.

Queen held off on building the convenience store after the construction market took a downturn. He eventually sold the land to Belle Realty Development Company, the property’s current owner.

While the future of the property is uncertain, Sims said the group will continue to advocate for improvements to Old Mocksville Road and for smart development in the area.

“We’re not going to give up,” Sims said.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Daniel Almazan’s name. We apologize for the error.

Comments

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

email author More by Ben