Sheetz, the convenience store chain, hopes to buy 2.46 acres on the southeast corner of Rose Street and U.S. 70 Business near N.C. 42 East in Clayton.
With all of the traffic on 70 Business, the company thinks the spot is ideal for its brand of convenience store, known for made-to-order food.
“The site is on a major thoroughfare, U.S. 70,” Jamie Gerhart, site selector for Sheetz, told residents at a recent neighborhood meeting. “We believe there is an unserved customers – local customer or traveling customer – in that traveling pocket.”
Residents had mixed reactions.
Daylon Lynch said he has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years and wanted to know what the business would mean for the residents: “What effect is this going to have on the rest of the neighborhood, with the traffic and the lights and the noise and the 24 hours of service?” he said. “What kind of effect is that going to have on the community?”
Joel and Jennifer Mercer, who have a 2-year-old daughter with a second child on the way, expressed worry that a 24-hour convenience store would bring too much traffic and threaten cleanliness and safety.
“There are a ton of kids in the neighborhood,” Jennifer said. “This is a huge impact.”
“Nobody wants Sheetz in their backyard,” Joel said. “I don’t think anyone in this room wants Sheetz in their backyard.”
Louise Overbee, who owns a rental house in the neighborhood, said she attended the meeting to find out what Sheetz would mean for her property: “It may be for the best. I don’t know, but I am concerned about it,” she said. “It could make our property more valuable or it could depreciate it.”
Cheryl Daughtry said she would welcome Sheetz. U.S. 70 Business has “just been eating up our property,” and she and her ex-husband are already eager to sell.
Daughtry said she does feel bad for the people who have lived in the neighborhood for years. But the change from residential to commercial in that area is inevitable, she said.
Change will not be quick.
“This is not a done deal,” Gerhart said. “We are at the proverbial maybe 15-yard line now.”
The land Sheetz is looking to buy is zoned for residential use, and a long application process stands in the way of a change to commercial.
But the change might be likely. Clayton’s land-use map, drawn up in 2008 to guide town planners through orderly growth, designates those properties as commercial in the future.
Next up for Sheetz is a Town Council meeting on March 17, followed by a public hearing on April 7. If the council rezones the land, Sheetz will have to submit a site plan for approval.
The site plan would have to include improvements to Rose Street and U.S. 70 Business, including turn lanes to handle the traffic. It would also have to include barriers between the business and adjoining properties.
If the town OKs the site plan, Sheetz would next seek a building permit.
Clayton planning director David DeYoung said the site plan could potentially win approval by June or July. “But there’s no guarantee that once they get all the components lined up, they’re going to want to move that fast,” he said.
DeYoung said the Sheetz going up at N.C. 42 and Amelia Church Road won town approval in 2011; Sheetz took two years to start construction.
To protect residents, the planning staff will recommend that the Town Council approve the zoning as a special-use district. That would allow the town council to impose extra conditions like additional trees to shield residents from the noise and lights.
DeYoung called special-use districts an “extra layer of protection for the surrounding neighborhood.”
“It’s a lot of what we do,” he said, “not only benefiting the town but talking about protection for residents from the development.”