Monday, June 24, 2024

Rezoning for dollar retail store in Rocky Point moves forward despite resident pushback

A rezoning has passed the Pender County commissioners for another dollar retail store to make its way to Rocky Point. (Courtesy photo)

PENDER COUNTY — Almost a dozen people were scheduled to speak at Pender County commissioners board meeting Monday evening, many of whom were impassioned about the possibility of another dollar store coming to the area. 

READ MORE: Former Pender County Schools bus driver arrested for sexual battery

A little more than 2 acres at the intersection of Highway 210 and Little Kelly Road in Rocky Point was approved for a rezoning in a 3-1 vote, with Jerry Groves dissenting. 

It is now conditionally zoned instead of rural agricultural and the board agreed to amend the land-use map of the unified development ordinance from medium density residential land to the neighborhood mixed use. It is something staff considered would align with the area, as there is not residential development in a mile radius.

Other businesses located in the vicinity include: Pender County Packing Company, Rooks Farm Service Inc-Garage, Lewis Nursery and Farms, American Blueberries LLC, Caleco Soil Services, Inc., McNally’s Farms, several churches, and four chicken houses.

Rhetson Companies Inc., was the applicant on behalf of property owner Livvie R. Lewis in care of her daughter Elizabeth Grix. Lewis, who passed away, owned more than 5 acres, though only half of the land is proposed to be rezoned. 

Residents have voiced concerns about the commercial retailer that could be developed on the site since the first public input meeting was hosted by the developer in RiIley’s Creek Baptist Church in Rocky Point in December. The 940-populated Rocky Point already has a Dollar General and Family Dollar, located around 5 miles from the new site proposal.

Fifty-two people attended and began the pushback in the last five months. They cited an increase in traffic, the store not being in line with the aesthetics of the rural community, and concerns of the impact it will have on a nearby local business.

Greg Stewart, a developer for Rhetson Inc., assured traffic concerns would be addressed by licensed traffic engineers from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

In 2020, NCDOT’s annual average daily traffic data indicated the intersection of Little Kelly Road and U.S. Highway 210 experienced traffic at only 12% of its capacity, though residents indicated having more driveways with people turning onto highways will make the intersection more dangerous. Many said increased traffic in the intersection will worsen conditions for drivers having to make left turns during peak hours. 

As well, dissenters surmised a dollar retail store would negatively impact Rocky Point Quick Stop, a convenience store located roughly 200 feet from the proposed development. 

“It’s not needed. The people of Rocky Point have said since day one, ‘Get out of here. We don’t want you,’ and we made ourselves very clear,” resident Amie Beagle said.

Beagle, along with others present at the commissioners meeting, had spoken out to the planning board as well. Beagle said she received an email from Pender County stating that the new development would be a Dollar General; PCD asked the county to verify this but did not hear back by press.

Kate Lasala, also at previous meetings, was concerned with crime.

“Police call these stores ‘robbery magnets’ and ‘stop and robs,’ and having these types of stores brought into our residential neighborhoods is not something that we want in our community,” she said. 

However, not everyone was against the business. Supporters noted the store’s location in a rural area could allow for closer access to food, especially for senior citizens who cannot drive. 

Janet Higgins, the other daughter of Lewis, said at the commissioner’s meeting that the corner has always been commercial, and the land used as farmland and to house gas pumps.

“It was their wish that their farmland became something useful for the community,” she said of her mother.

The planning board voted 3-2 on March 5 in favor — after tabling the discussion from February andvthe applicant made necessary changes to address concerns. 

The conditions put on the business to get the rezoning include:

  • All exterior lighting should not cast direct light beyond property lines
  • No sign should be lit past open store hours 
  • 10-foot-wide easements must be next to the right-of-ways along the site boundaries next to Little Kelly Road and Highway 210 

Commissioner Groves said he did not approve the zoning due to the last planning board vote. 

“We had two absent, two no’s and three yeses. For me, that’s not good enough,” he said.

The proposed development is expected to hire six employees and operate between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. 

The developer will submit the site development plan application to the Pender County technical review committee, which will review and approve the site through administrative procedure in accordance with the Pender County unified development ordinance. 

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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