DOBSON — Following a public hearing, the Surry County Board of Commissioners approved a proposed rezoning request by a 3-2 vote, paving the way for the possible construction of a Dollar General store in the Flat Rock community.
The vote went against the recommendation of the county’s planning board, which voted 5-2 to recommend denying the request.
The action came Monday night as the board met for its regular monthly meeting in the Commissioner’s Meeting Room at the County Government Center in Dobson.
In presenting the proposal, County Planner Kim Bates told the board that the proposal is to rezone 1.35 acres zoned for residential use to a commercial zone.
The property is located at 1650 E. Pine Street, directly across the road from Flat Rock Elementary School. The property is zoned for general residential use, and has a dwelling and a garage on the property. Under the proposal the dwelling and garage would be torn down.
During Monday’s discussion Bates said the county’s planning board voted 5-2 vote to deny the request.
Asked by Commissioner Eddie Harris to gauge community sentiment about the proposal, Bates was unequivocal.
“I’d say the folks from the community have been significantly against the project,” he said. “The planning board was concerned about the location across from the school and the size of the lot, but they really like the residential neighborhood. It has a lot of vitality and I believe they feel this project could disrupt the quality of life in the area.”
During the public hearing, only one person spoke for the rezoning, Marty Koon of Venture Properties, the company proposing to build the store.
Koon said the building isn’t necessarily going to be a dry-looking, commercial building.
“We’re willing to upgrade the exteriors with siding and reduce the size of the signage to add a flavor that fits the area,” he told the board.
Koon said the project would create 12 jobs.
“We’re requesting that the commissioners approve our application, subject to our exterior upgrades as determined by your staff,” he said. “Be involved. Tell us how you want us to improve it and we’ll do it. Whatever your staff wants, your staff will get.”
But that wasn’t enough for some residents of the area who came out to speak against the rezoning.
“I don’t see putting a Dollar General store between residences,” said Mary Dowell, who lives on property adjacent to the proposed store. “I already live two-and-a-half miles from a Dollar General. If I’m going shopping, I’ll go while I’m in town.”
Dowell, along with several other speakers, voiced concern about the additional traffic across from the school.
“There are other properties available in the area,” she said. “I just don’t see it.”
Margaret Hiatt agreed, noting the community opposition to the proposed store.
“I can’t imagine why anyone would want to put a store there,” she said. “It’s not going to bring you more money because we’re just not going to shop there. We’re already shopping at one of the other two stores that are within three miles of us.”
Commissioner Larry Phillips said he opposed the rezoning based on community sentiment.
“There comes a time when you have to weigh economic development with the interests of the people who live in a community,” he said. “These people live in that community and I have a responsibility to listen to them and honor their wishes.”
But Commissioner Paul Johnson said the additional tax revenue could be a boon for the Flat Rock Fire Department.
“Although there are some negative things involved with this proposal, there are some positive things as well for the community,” he said, noting that the fire department stands to get an additional $5,000 a year if the store opens.
Johnson’s sentiment was echoed by Commissioner Jimmy Miller, who said he supported his position.
Commissioner Eddie Harris opposed the matter, though.
“I this case, I believe the impact to the local community outweighs the public good,” he said.
Following a call for a vote, the board passed the rezoning on a 3-2 vote, with Harris and Phillips opposing.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.