Sheetz clears another hurdle

ndunn@newsobserver.comJune 27, 2014 

One change to a proposed Sheetz on U.S. 70 Business is erasing some but not all opposition from residents who will live next door to the convenience store.

The popular chain wants to build its second Clayton store at the intersection of U.S. 70 Business and Rose Street, a residential area town planners have tapped for future commercial development. The land is currently home to a neighborhood that dates back to the 1950s, and while five owners have decided to sell to Sheetz, others not included in the deal have asked town leaders to block the store.

But Sheetz, which has pledged to work with neighbors, has agreed to not open an access road leading directly into the neighborhood, where homeowners say children often play in the street and catch the bus to school. The access road to Tulip Street, where many of the concerned neighbors live, was originally part of the company’s site plan. But Sheetz nixed the road after opponents bashed the idea during public hearings and neighborhood meetings.

On Monday, the Clayton Planning Board unanimously approved the store’s site plan and recommended the Town Council issue Sheetz the special-use permit it needs to move forward. Special-use permits typically include conditions developers must meet, often to protect residential neighbors from the downsides of commercial development.

One condition for this project prohibits Sheetz from opening the access road to Tulip Street until the town rezones the surrounding area for commercial use or until the state builds the proposed “southern connector” highway. The estimated thee-mile, $30.5 million highway will eventually link N.C. 42 West to N.C. 42 East via Rose Street, but to date, the N.C. Department of Transportation has set aside no money for the project.

State records show the DOT conducted a feasibility study of the “southern connector” in 1997. It has been included in the state’s catalog of proposed road projects ever since but is now being reviewed along with thousands of other projects under a new prioritization model state lawmakers approved last year.

Contrary to past town meetings, when opponents have stood in line to criticize the Sheetz project, no one spoke in opposition Monday night. Gray Styers, an attorney for Sheetz, attributed the lack of opponents to the company’s decision to nix the access road to Tulip Street.

“We believe we have addressed those concerns,” Styers said.

Shirley Pierce, of 1308 Tulip St., said she still doesn’t support the store. “I don’t understand how anyone in town would want a service station to move into a neighborhood,” she said. “We can’t just pick up and move.”

Pierce, who will live directly beside the store, said even with the site-plan changes, traffic is bound to increase in her neighborhood. “If they wanted to buy mine, I’d sell it too, but the fact is that we have to keep living here,” she said.

The neighborhood has about 45 residential lots, and five property owners intend to sell a total seven lots to Sheetz.

In 2010, the Town Council denied a similar rezoning request in the neighborhood. Town planning director David DeYoung said the 2010 request didn’t include a specific use and involved fewer lots.

Sheetz announced plans for its store earlier this year, and a divided Town Council rezoned land for the store in April. The council is expected to vote on the special-use permit on July 7.

The store’s site plan shows that trees and a six-foot-tall fence will separate the 6,500-square foot store from houses to the east. Also, a traffic-impact analysis recommends added turn lanes off of U.S. 70 Business and improvements to Rose Street.

Frank Price, chairman of the Clayton Planning Board, thanked Sheetz for taking into account the opposition on Tulip Street. “I think this should be a very amenable compromise, from both the residents’ standpoint and hopefully from Sheetz,” Price said.

Daylon Lynch lives on U.S. 70 Business about three houses down from the proposed store. He said he thinks removing the access road to Tulip Street will benefit those residents.

“I’m not glad they are coming here, but you can’t do away with progress,” Lynch said. “There’s nothing you can do about progress in an area.”

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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