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Published Sat, Nov 24, 2012 08:00 PM
Modified Tue, Nov 27, 2012 07:39 PM

Town debates rezoning property on U.S. 70

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- ajames@newsobserver.com

CLAYTON -- A wooded lot adjacent to U.S. 70 and the off-ramp at N.C. 42 may soon be rezoned from commercial property to residential property.

The 1.62-acre lot is sizable enough for a gas station to fit on the property, but with its tricky location next to the off-ramp of a busy highway, it has never been developed. A change in the zoning of the property would lower taxes on the property.

The Atkinson family owns the property now. It sits between South Lombard Street and Barbour Street near Building Blocks Daycare. The primary purpose of the lot is to provide a noise buffer for a home also owned by the Atkinsons that sits on a property next to the lot at 704 South Lombard Street.

The town’s planning director David DeYoung presented the recommendation to rezone the property at a planning board meeting Monday night.

Though the change in the zoning may go unnoticed, the change in its land use opens the property for development. Some residents near the lot fear that the property could be turned into low-income housing and could bring more traffic to the already busy streets in the neighborhood.

At a meeting with neighbors, owner Stephen Atkinson described the drawbacks of the property as commercial property. There is lack of safe driveway access to the site due to the exit ramp onto Barbour Street, unsafe access between the bridge and the exit ramp along U.S. 70, and the location of the bridge adjacent to Lombard Street.

Doing that would require a special use permit to build aparment buildings on the lot. The town would have to approve the plan, and that is unlikely, according to the town’s planning director David DeYoung.

Residents near the lot met with Atkinson in October at a neighborhood meeting to hear the proposed rezoning plan. Some expressed concern.

Mike Pleasant’s mother lives in the 600 block of Barbour Street. He said that his concern for his mother is that if any new residential properties move into the neighborhood, there will be even more traffic than there is now.

“I’m concerned about her backing out of her driveway now,” said Pleasant. As cars whizzed past the home on Wednesday, Pleasant pointed out that there hasn’t always been that much traffic. When his mother moved in, the street was just a path that had a dead-end. Now, traffic speeds off N.C. 42 and feeds into a small two-lane road.

At the meeting, Atkinson stressed that neither he nor his mother, who lives on the property, have any intention of developing it.

The town’s planning board has recommended the change in zoning.

According to public records from the planning board’s review, the staff believes rezoning the property would be consistent with the strategic growth plan for the town. As part of the strategic growth plan, the town wants to create more residential infill, to fill in more unoccupied space.

The town council will review the recommendation and decide whether to approve the rezoning at the next meeting in December.

James: 919-553-7234

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