Parents say rezoning could be dangerous
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 24, 2012 1:46 PM
Concerned parent and Tommy's Road Elementary School PTA board member Kristin Neiman points out the already high traffic at the school. Mrs. Neiman and other community members including many Tommy's Road Elementary parents spoke out against changing a lot near the school to be zoned for general business at Monday's meeting of the Goldsboro City Council. If the lot is zoned for commercial use, there are plans to turn the site into a Bojangles.
About 40 citizens turned out for the Goldsboro City Council meeting Monday night, mostly to express their opposition to a zoning request for the southeast corner of the intersection of Wayne Memorial Drive and Tommy's Road, citing concern for children at the school adjacent to the property.
Six individuals spoke against the measure, which would rezone the plot of land from office and institutional to general business. Three spoke in favor of the rezoning, including a representative from a company that has an option to purchase the land and develop it as a restaurant.
Five citizens spoke before Chip Little of Redco Properties revealed his company was planning to build a Bojangles at the intersection, which is about half a mile from the new U.S. Highway 70 Bypass.
The opponents to the rezoning, led by a Tommy's Road Elementary Parent Teacher Organization board member, voiced concerns about the current flow of traffic even before a new business opened.
Ron Jennette said the area, known as Langston Crossroads, already has backups along its corridor.
"We don't need more business there," he said.
One opponent's suggestion that the plan was to put a convenience store on the land brought about even more concerns, as he and others seized on the notion of allowing the sale of alcohol and tobacco products within view of children from the school's playground.
Kristin Neiman, a parent who emerged as the spokesperson for the PTA although each member of the board was present, continually referenced the number of students, 621, attending the school in her address of the council, concluding that the risk to that many children's safety wasn't worth whatever gains could be realized from a new business opening up.
"I don't believe the additional revenue is worth the safety risk," she said.
Her explanation, including pictures, of the congestion of cars that forms in front of the school pointed out that the Tommy's Road School parking lot had just one entrance and one exit, unlike most other schools. She also said that requests for traffic direction had been denied in the past.
Mayor Pro Tempore Chuck Allen addressed her concerns, saying that, regardless of whether the rezoning request was approved, something needed to be done to relieve the traffic in that area.
He suggested looking for funding through the Safe Routes to School fund to create a traffic flow system through the school's parking lot that would cut down on delays.
But Julie Anderson, who spoke after Mrs. Neiman, put it bluntly.
"If you're going to put a store there, you're going to have to widen the road," she told the council.
That explanation harkened back to Allen's declaration during the City Council work session that there was a need for the city to look hard at that area, saying with the first leg of the highway opening and more in the future, "this is only the beginning."
City Planning Director Randy Guthrie showed, during both session, the comprehensive land use recommendation plan for that area, which showed the majority of that intersection was earmarked for general business, with a portion of the subject property tabbed for office and institutional use. A convenience store also already exists across Tommy's Road from the property, which Charles Worley, who said he sold the property for the elementary school to the district, hypothesized was the main issue of the protest.
He insinuated that those protesting were trying to prevent another convenience store from opening up at the intersection to protect the existing one.
"You can't stop development in the county," he said, admitting the road did need to be widened and citing the land use plan. "Tax dollars help pay for schools. This is more about competition than anything else."
But that was all before Little, who was in the audience with his associates, revealed the company's true intentions for the property.
"We have an option on the property and we're looking hopefully to build another Bojangles," he said. "With the expansion of the new bypass, growth is expected in this corridor, and we want travelers to be able to exit and get the convenience they want."
But that revelation would not change Mrs. Neiman's opposition to the rezoning request.
"There are still some issues," she said following the meeting. "We don't like the idea of having any business that close to a school -- anything with a parking lot. It's not a safety risk as parents we're willing to take."
When informed that site and building plans approved by the city oftentimes can carry a requirement for buffers to be built, Mrs. Neiman said there was still the issue of traffic.
"It depends on what kind of buffer, but there's still the issue of traffic. They said they'll look at widening the road at some point but that's at some point," she said.
After the meeting, Little explained that his company's decision to purchase the land would be largely determined on the rezoning request and said no timeline for the proposed restaurant existed since there were so many unknowns.