04/20/11 — Children's center gets icy reception

View Archive

Children's center gets icy reception

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 20, 2011 1:46 PM

Two children's entertainment complexes have been proposed within the city limits as two land owners have filed for conditional use permits with the Planning Commission.

The commission will make its recommendations at the May 2 City Council meeting, but Monday's public hearings for the two proposals garnered very different responses.

One of the amusement centers, an arcade and game room for children, would be in Southgate Plaza on the south side of U.S. 117 between Old Mount Olive Highway and the Neuse River. No one spoke for or against its permit.

But "I Wanna Have Fun," a similar proposed business on the West Side of North William Street between Hooks River Road and Eleventh Street, should not anticipate a warm welcome from its residential neighbors if its business proposal is approved.

Laura Crawford of John Court said she's concerned about her home, which borders the property being considered for the children's fun and fitness center.

"It's taken much too long to calm our street back down," she said, citing shootings that occurred near the Playground Nightclub across the street from where the center would be located.

Crawford said that the previous tenants had cut down trees that exposed her house to William Street, though shrubs had grown up to shield it again. Following an incident at the club, she said two individuals with guns jumped a fence and ran through her yard.

"We have too much problems in that one block," she said. "It's not fair to us. I agree the children need somewhere to go, but not at my expense. Take it somewhere else. William Street is a very busy area."

The individual proposing the new business, Betty Overman of Ash Street, said while the surrounding businesses were blights on the community's image, she saw her business proposal as a way to fight back.

"The adult entertainment at the Playground and the tattoo shop may be detrimental to our community, but not to our children's entertainment center," she said. "We feel like it will only add to the community."

But Joseph Rodriguez of Ash Street asked if there weren't better locations for a children's center without the negative attributes of the area being discussed.

"Do you really think Sid's Playground and tattoo is a good role model for any child to walk out and see?" he asked. "Whether there's gunshots or fences, I don't think it's very conducive to any child walking out and seeing neon lights and the things we all would associate with that."

In other business at the council meeting and work session, the Engineering Department introduced Bobby Croom as the city's new traffic engineer. The councilmen almost immediately began to laughingly suggest areas, specifically Wayne Memorial Drive and Berkeley Boulevard, where traffic could be improved after Croom was introduced.

Concerning roads, the council also approved a resolution to create a contract with S.T. Wooten for the 2011 resurfacing of 24 sections of six city streets.

Among the streets to receive resurfacing were Chestnut Street, Slocumb Street, Westbrook Road, Park Avenue, Cox Boulevard and North Jefferson Avenue.