Despite planning board opposition, city council approves Dollar General on Old Mocksville Road

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, April 6, 2022

SALISBURY — After nearly three hours of public comment and discussion Tuesday, City Council members broke with Salisbury Planning Board recommendations and approved a rezoning request to accommodate a Dollar General at Old Mocksville Road and Seventh Street Extension.

Daniel Almazan of Teramore Development requested a rezoning of approximately 1.7 acres on a 4.4-acre parcel from neighborhood mixed use to corridor mixed-use with a conditional district overlay. The site would accommodate a 10,640-square-foot Dollar General. The site is adjacent to Ivan’s Restaurant, with most of the land in the area zoned residential. Nearby neighborhoods include Country Club Hills, Eagle Heights and Polo Commons and contain several hundred homes.

Almazan is the son of Mayor Karen Alexander, who recused herself from discussion and a vote on the issue.

In addition to the regularly sold home essentials, the Dollar General would be a “fresh” concept store offering fresh produce and expanded coolers.

Under the current zoning, the store would exceed the 10,000 square foot maximum. Additionally, under corridor mixed use zoning, a 75-foot setback is applicable, which can make parking and deliveries more accessible. The only entrance and exit point would be off Seventh Street Extension.

Additionally, the window tint under the neighborhood mixed use zoning allows up to 40% tint. However, the request would allow the store to keep the windows on the door transparent, with the remaining windows along the Seventh Street Extension side to be opaque as it will be lined with the backs of coolers. Other windows on the Old Mocksville Road side would be opaque due to bathrooms.

Planning Director Hannah Jacobson explained that council members in 2003 approved the area to be rezoned from residential to retail. It was converted to neighborhood mixed use when the current Land Development Ordinance was adopted in 2008.

That the area was already zoned for commercial development was one reason council members ultimately approved the rezoning request, with the exception of council member Harry McLaughlin, who opposed it due to safety concerns.

In February, the Salisbury Planning Board held two meetings for the proposal, approving it 5-4 at the first meeting and then unanimously denying it due to safety concerns from residents. A second meeting was held due to a faulty Zoom link that might have prevented public input. In its denial, the board also cited inconsistencies with the city’s Vision 2020 plans for development and growth.

City staff say the store meet N-7 and C-26 of the Vision 2020 policy, which state such developments that are appropriately located, designed and scaled to provide basic necessities to “residents of the city’s older neighborhoods” are encouraged. The latter policy states neighborhood serving businesses shall be designed at a residential scale and character.

Ashley Honbarrier said she was “shocked this is even a conversation,” adding that even the city’s youth joke about how many Dollar Generals are in the area. Via Happy Roots, Honbarrier works with Rowan-Salisbury Schools students with a gardening program to address food insecurity and disagreed with Dollar General’s notion that it will help address food insecurity in that area.

Joe Sims, owner of the adjacent Ivan’s Restaurant, a fine dining location, spoke about his history making multiple pleas for the road conditions to be addressed and the speed limit to be reduced to 35 miles per hour, at least since his family opened the restaurant in 1989. He added that more than 200 homes have been developed in the area since then, and two schools zones collide.

In addition to Sims, about 10 other residents spoke in opposition to the development. All cited traffic and safety concerns, particularly a spike in crime and increased traffic on a dangerous and narrow, well-traveled road. Some of those residents included Kathy Seybold, Ben Fisher, Eva Nelson, Delaine Fowler, Jack Kribbs, Diane Fisher, Erron Towns, Robert Timberlake, Johnny Behrooz and Kim Petty.

Those residents also said the development was in contrast to the Vision 2020 set of policies adopted for responsible growth and that this “spot zoning” could set a precedent for the future.

“I don’t understand why someone’s going to build where no one is going to shop,” Timberlake said.

Public commenters also cited an online petition to stop commercial zoning in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, around 15 Salisbury residents present in council chambers collectively signaled support for the project, though not all of them spoke during the public hearing.

Kevin Boss said he spoke with senior adults in the area and felt it was a positive addition for the community as it helps them access essential goods. He added that trouble can come from anywhere in reference to increased crime concerns.

Quanita Kelly echoed the same, adding that it can be difficult for senior adults to rely on someone else for their essentials.

Joining Teramore Development at the meeting was a handful of engineering, planning and real estate experts to address the concerns outlined by residents. Nick Kirkland, a real estate appraiser, said Dollar General stores are typically located in neighborhood areas. It was his professional opinion that the store would be a harmonious land use for the area, citing a paired sale analysis not finding any impact on nearby property values.

Justin Church, an engineer associated with the development, said the developer has opted to utilize the city’s “pay in lieu of” sidewalk program, which puts that responsibility on the city. However, Church said they were open to a discussion of installing sidewalks, but cited no adjacent connectivity. Water services are already present on Seventh Street Extension, he said, and the developer will pay for sewer extensions.

John Davenport of Davenport Engineering noted both roads were maintained by North Carolina Department of Transportation, which did not indicate a need for a traffic impact analysis. He said the Dollar General store would not increase traffic based on how the area is already zoned.

Additionally, Davenport said it’s estimated 10% of traffic would come from Seventh Street Extension with the rest from Old Mocksville Road. He added that the shallow shoulders on either side would be a concern for any development because delivery trucks would still be needed.

Ken Miller, a retired police chief from Greensboro, said he’s assessed crime statistics around Dollar General locations in multiple counties. After reviewing calls for service and consolidated crime data for discount stores across Rowan County, Miller said the numbers don’t point to an increase in crime.

Council member David Post said it was unfortunate that the issue came down to one side having more resources and a voice and another that didn’t. Council member Anthony Smith helped clarify that some voices were more magnified than others and that there was a disconnect between different communities in the area. Smith said it wasn’t true that those who spoke in opposition spoke on behalf of all nearby residents.

Despite his “no” vote, McLaughlin said this particular zoning was better due to the increased setback and delivery truck capability. He added that he sees the potential for crime due to insufficient lighting, but that it wouldn’t necessarily increase crime just by being there.

McLaughlin asked about approving the measure under the condition that the roads be widened to address safety concerns, but City Attorney Graham Corriher and Interim City Manager Brian Hiatt clarified that council members would need to consider that independently of the Dollar General rezoning request. City Engineer Wendy Brindle said “spot safety” improvement projects are competitive with funding from NCDOT, but that it’s possible to explore.

Mayor Pro Tem Tamara Sheffield said it wasn’t her role to dictate development plans, but the safety concerns would exist regardless of what business was developed there.

Teramore Development anticipates constructing the store within three months. Almazan said the service area for Dollar General stores is typically two miles, which would include about 4,600 residents at the Old Mocksville Road and Seventh Street Extension location.

City Council members recessed the meeting and will reconvene at 11:30 a.m. today for a closed session to discuss a personnel issue. Council members are expected to continue interviews with city manager candidates.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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