Sheetz clears first hurdle amid protest from neighbors

sgilman@newsobserver.comFebruary 28, 2014 

  • Board backs Riverwood expansion

    Also on Monday, the Clayton Planning Board recommended the Town Council rezone of 46.19 acres near Riverwood from residential estate to residential with 8,000-square-foot lots. Developer Fred Smith is looking to expand his Riverwood neighborhood.

    His plans call for 156 single-family lots on the additional acreage.

— Against the wishes of many neighborhood residents, Sheetz on Monday inched closer to its goal of building a 24-hour gas station, convenience store and restaurant at Rose Street and U.S. 70 Business.

The Clayton Planning Board recommended the Town Council approve the company’s rezoning request and issue a special-use permit for the store. The Planning Board vote was unanimous.

Five people own the seven residential lots where Sheetz hopes to build.

Clayton Planning Director David DeYoung told the Planning Board that a Sheetz on those 2.46 acres would benefit the town.

He acknowledged resident opposition, saying, “That’s understandable.”

“But from a staff standpoint,” he added, “this is consistent with our Strategic Growth Plan.”

On Clayton’s Future Land Use Map, drawn in 2008 to guide town planners, much of the land at Rose Street and U.S. 70 Business is earmarked for commercial use.

The proposed store would also be right along the proposed “south connecter,” the road town planners hope to build some day between N.C. 42 East and N.C. 42 West.

Attorney Gray Styers, representing Sheetz, told the Planning Board, “It is true that change can be uncomfortable, but that’s why you have future land-use plans to guide the town over time.”

He said Sheetz would be an asset to Clayton and would not bring the bright lights, trash and noise that neighbors fear.

“We do things right,” Styers said. “If you pull into a Sheetz, you will see attention to detail. They will not be bad neighbors. They want to be good citizens in the community.”

Jennifer Mercer, who lives at 1229 Tulip St., disagreed. She told the Planning Board, “This neighborhood is not equipped to handle the 22,000 cars this company is hoping to attract.”

The neighborhood has more than 30 children, Mercer said, and asserted the Sheetz would endanger them.

Her husband, Joel Mercer, expressed fears that the Sheetz could bring “certain unwanted elements into the community, whether it be fumes, trucks, trash.”

“I’m hard pressed,” Joel Mercer said, “to believe that even with the additional growth in Clayton that we need another Sheetz. There are already no less than 10 gas stations within two miles of this location.

But Planning Board members said they felt it was in the town’s best interest to back Sheetz. Not only is the commercial use in alignment with the town’s Strategic Growth Plan, but the company would also pay to widen the intersection, something that would have to happen if the town builds the N.C. 42 connector.

Board member James Lipscomb spoke first. “I feel like it’s in the long-term best interest of the town,” he said.

The Planning Board recommended six conditions, including a 10-foot buffer on the east side with evergreen foliage, a 6-foot fence between Sheetz and the neighborhood and prohibition of access from the store to Tulip Street.

Next up for Sheetz is a Town Council work session on March 17 and a public hearing on April 7.

 

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