Citizens pack room for county meet

By Jeff Linville -
Sarah Southern addresses county officials over the temporary closing of Sue’s Restaurant in Dobson due to building issues. - Jeff Linville | The News

DOBSON — Dozens of people turned out for Monday’s meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners because of two unrelated issues.

The county board was set to honor some of its employees who reached milestones of service, but those employees couldn’t make it into the meeting room here because of all the citizens who showed up concerning a proposed zoning issue near Pilot Mountain and the temporary closing of a beloved restaurant next door to the government center.

Chairman Eddie Harris opened the floor for public comments. First up, Sarah Southern asked how many folks in attendance were there to support Sue’s Restaurant; dozens of hands went up.

“It’s more than a business,” she said. “We are a family to everyone.” The restaurant owners have done many things for the community such as donate food to the needy and sponsor youth sports teams.

Last month when discussing construction work at Dobson Plaza, the commissioners learned that there was an issue in the floor in the kitchen area at Sue’s Restaurant. This diner, although apart from the former Lowes/Just Save building, was part of the purchase, making the commissioners the new landlord.

A hand-written note on the door at Sue’s explains that the restaurant is closed until some repairs can be made.

MaryAnn Hester said her family eats at Sue’s twice a week. The diner is more than just a business, but a place of community where friends gather, she told. The owners have been good to Dobson, and she for one is willing to show her support whether it be pitching in a bit of money or some manual labor to help get the place back on its feet.

Tina Haynes, an employee, said Ray and Sue have been great bosses, and they have been there for each and every employee as well as being there for their patrons.

“You grow to love your customers and their families, too,” said Haynes.

While the public forum was still open, several other people came forward to address an issue that came up in June about a proposed development in the Cook School Road area.

Howard Jones said he lives on Simmons Grove Church Road. Because his property doesn’t adjoin the area that came up for rezoning last month, he was never notified about the development, so he didn’t get a chance to voice his displeasure.

From what came up at the previous meeting, Jones said he learned that the developer is looking to build 35 cabins and three houses on just 11.5 acres — which would mean there would be only about 3/10ths of an acre per structure. If only one and a half cars were averaged per structure, that would mean 57 vehicles coming and going. With, say, four people in each structure, he said there would be 150 folks crammed in 11.5 acres.

This is a rural farming area, and it just doesn’t fit, Jones said.

Ashley Marion said he lives three houses down from the area proposed to be rezoned. He said he has only been there a year and a half, but he can already tell this isn’t a good fit for the community.

Also, Marion, noted, there is no public water or sewer service in this area. How, he questioned, is 11 acres of land supposed to support the needs for water and septic lines for 38 different housing locations? It just doesn’t seem possible that the land could support that much, he reasoned.

Jimmy Rogers said he moved to this area 18 years ago because it was a quiet neighborhood. Westfield Elementary School came in and brought traffic twice a day, but that was okay. However, 30-some cabins and all their traffic is not welcomed.

Roger Taylor said he lives directly across the road from this proposed site. It’s all rural, he said. There is nothing there to attract people going on vacation. A concern for the locals is that these small cabins could become a distribution point for drug transactions.

Planning Board

When the issue came up last month, the commissioners asked Kim Bates, the county planning director, how the issue went with the planning board.

Bates said no one spoke up in opposition at that time, so the planning board approved the plan.

After a few people voiced concerns to the commissioners, the county board decided to send the project back to the planning board for reconsideration.

Bates said Monday that some of the same people who turned out for the county meeting were also at the last planning meeting July 9 and voiced their opposition then.

Bates said the Eddie Bunn firm, for Chadd Development, brought up some new concessions to appease residents.

• Limit rental periods on the cabins to no more than two weeks so they aren’t permanent.

• Limit the number of occupants to no more than three people.

• Provide staff on site who can be available 24/7.

• Make it a gated community with a rail fence around the perimeter.

• Create a buffer of at least 25 feet from the cabins to any property line and have a 20-foot-wide planted screening.

One area where the developer was not willing to budge was the count of 35 cabins. Bates said the developer believes he can’t go any lower and “maintain adequate profit margin” for the project.

Bates said that after hearing from residents in protest, the planning board voted 3-2 against the rezoning of the land to allow the development.

At Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Gary Tilley said, “The business model of this project appears to be flawed.”

There is the density of the cabins in the project, Tilley said, and there is “a lack of collateral appeal like going on walking trails or a stream or other body of water to visit. … I’m inclined to agree that the project be rejected.”

Van Tucker said the planning board considered long and hard on this issue before voting against it, and he was inclined not to approve it, either.

Harris said he believed the impact on the community would outweigh any potential economic benefit.

After the discussion, the board voted against the rezoning request.

Sarah Southern addresses county officials over the temporary closing of Sue’s Restaurant in Dobson due to building issues. Southern addresses county officials over the temporary closing of Sue’s Restaurant in Dobson due to building issues. Jeff Linville | The News

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.