Rezoning request denied
Published 5:40 pm Friday, February 14, 2020
GATESVILLE – Public outcry over highway safety at a planned new business apparently helped to sway a rezoning decision by the Gates County Board of Commissioners here at their Feb. 3 meeting.
At the end of nearly 90 minutes of discussion, to include public comments, the board denied a request that called for seven acres of land at 1354 NC 32 South near Hobbsville to be rezoned from A-1 (Agricultural) to C-1 (Commercial) for the purpose of operating a retail store.
The vote was 4-1 to deny the request, with Commissioner Jonathan Jones casting the lone dissenting vote. Jones pointed out that the county’s Planning Board had approved the rezoning request and he gained information from the NC Dept. of Transportation that they had approved a driveway permit for the planned new store.
“All the appropriate boxes have been checked, that’s why I feel this rezoning request should be approved,” Jones said.
However, his four colleagues saw things differently, especially after comments from the public that the chosen location was a safety hazard. The citizens pointed out it was in a curve on a hill, and that sight distance would be extremely limited by motorists entering/exiting the property. There was also concern about the heavy truck traffic on NC 32 and would those drivers be able to brake in time to slow for motorists turning into the store’s driveway or for a slow-moving vehicle that had just exited that driveway.
However, most all of the citizens who spoke said they welcomed a Dollar General store in that part of the county, but not at this particular location.
In defense of the chosen site, Brent Perdum of Triangle Site Design (a company hired by Dollar General to help select a location for its planned Hobbsville store) said that accident data he collected from NCDOT was not extreme in that area.
“There are very few crashes reported there,” he said. “There were 30 total since 2015, of which only eight involved two vehicles. And some of the single vehicle crashes, some involved hitting deer or bears.”
Perdum added that NCDOT granted the driveway permit on the condition that the speed limit in that area be lowered to 45 mph.
Commissioner Linda Hofler said she learned there were a great number of accidents in that location that were, for some reason or another, were not turned in by the county’s Sheriff’s Office to NCDOT.
“What makes this a difficult decision for us is that most of the same people who cited highway safety concerns at that particular location also said they would support a Dollar General somewhere else in that general location,” stated Commissioner Jack Owens. “Dollar General has met all the requirements of our Planning Board. They have performed the job we expect them to do.
“I said at our January meeting that the chosen location for Dollar General was an unsafe place, and I haven’t changed my opinion on that,” Owens added.
“I would question if our Planning Board got all the information they needed in order to make their decision,” said Hofler. “We had to ask for more information. They do not have the information we have.”
Newly seated Commissioner Dr. Althea Riddick said she was familiar with that area.
“The Planning Board did their job; the site developer did his job, but I sit here and listen to the citizens who are concerned about traffic safety there,” she noted. “I support additional economic development in our county, but my issue is there a need to build another Dollar General store there when there’s one less than 10 miles up the road?”
“In our previous meetings we’ve heard that our citizens did want another Dollar General in the county, particularly there in the Hobbsville area,” stated Commission Chairman Ray Freeman. “The safety of our citizens needs to be our utmost concern.”
On a motion from Hofler and a second from Dr. Riddick, the ensuing 4-1 vote denied the rezoning request.
Following that vote, Owens directed comments towards Perdum, saying he hoped Dollar General officials did not take this decision the wrong way and feel like the company’s business was not welcomed in Gates County.
“This board and our public would welcome the addition of another Dollar General in our county, just not at the location that was brought before us today to make a decision on,” he said.