Last week the Surry County Board of Commissioners chose to delay a vote on a rezoning matter that would allow for the construction of a Family Dollar store at 3416 Old Westfield Road. According to the comments of one commissioner it may be concerns regarding the sale of alcohol at the site that could be causing a controversy in the area.
Surry County Planning Director Kim Bates relayed a request from Family Dollar developers to continue the public hearing on the rezoning matter to the board’s next meeting in order to allow local residents the opportunity to speak about the project.
The Board of Commissioners chose to follow that recommendation and the matter is set to be discussed at the board’s Sept. 8 meeting.
While Bates didn’t allude to the reasoning behind the request to continue the hearing, Commissioner Jimmy Miller offered some explanation when he asked Bates if he and fellow commissioners are permitted to disallow alcohol sales at the site prior to approving any rezoning matter.
In a subsequent interview, Miller confirmed that he had heard concerns regarding the sale of alcohol and the proposed store site’s proximity to Westfield Baptist Church. Additionally, another official alluded to concerns regarding the store’s operating hours on Sundays.
Under North Carolina law alcohol sales are highly restricted at locations within 50 feet of a church. However, Westfield Baptist Church lies about 384 feet, according to Mapquest, from the site at which the Family Dollar store is being proposed.
Bates said that, like any other project, his department submitted a staff report along with the county planning board’s recommendation to county commissioners. That report stated that the planned Family Dollar would be consistent with Surry County’s land use plan.
In short, Bates stated that the Family Dollar store would be consistent with the “Community Activity Centers” portion of the plan. That portion of the plan encourages “low intensity shopping and retail opportunities” in rural parts of the county. According to the land use plan, stores such as a Family Dollar can provide both nearby shopping opportunities and jobs for local residents.
While Bates maintains that the Family Dollar store would be consistent with the land use plan, he also told commissioners that they can place additional conditions such as a ban on the sale of alcohol on a conditional zoning change. According to Bates, as long as alcohol sales are permitted in another district, then the ban would be legal at one site. Bates added that an overall ban on the sale of alcohol in the county would have to take place by means of a different sort of legislation.
Surry County Commissioner Paul Johnson, who represents the Westfield area, said that residents have come to him with concerns regarding alcohol sales, traffic and decreases in property values that could result from the Family Dollar project.
Johnson said that he “hasn’t heard a real outpouring against it (a Family Dollar store at the site),” but that, “so long as alcohol isn’t sold, it would be easier for residents to live with.”
Johnson said that in addition to the proposed site’s proximity to Westfield Baptist Church, Westfield Friends’ Church is located about one quarter of a mile away from the site. In the end, Johnson said he is simply following what folks in the community want — a ban on alcohol sales at the site.
According to a representative from Westfield Baptist Church, the church has taken no official stance on the Family Dollar matter. However, the official did say that various members of the church have spoken out against the proposed development.
Residents can take their concerns to the Surry County Board of Commissioners and would-be developers at the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled to kick-off at 4 p.m. on Sept. 8 at the Surry County Government Center in Dobson.
Andy Winemiller isd a staff writer at the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or [email protected]