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No action taken on moratorium request

Two weeks ago Surry County resident Melissa Hiatt requested the county commissioners consider enacting a 45-day moratorium on rezoning and planning requests that involve discount or dollar stores.

Hiatt is one of the leaders of the Sheltontown group that recently won a victory over such development in their community, when the board voted against a rezoning request by a development firm to put a Dollar General at the intersection of Quaker Road and Westfield Road.

At the board’s Monday meeting the commissioners heard polling data from the opposition to retail development but also for the first time heard pushback from a resident saying public opinion has no place policing private enterprise.

Discount retailers rankle residents

Word had spread of the latest targeted location for another Dollar General at Westfield Road and Indian Grove Church Road, less than one mile from the last attempted location. Hiatt said it is a rumor no longer and that residents have pieced together the facts as neighbors talked to neighbors about the potential land moves taking place.

For some of them it is not deja vu all over again because they never got over it the first time. The previous attempt by Teramore Development LLC to have the corner lot at Quaker and Westfield Roads rezoned for commercial were defeated by the county commissioners in July.

At the board’s next meeting Hiatt again explained her standing objections based on that plan and asked the board to consider issuing the moratorium on rezoning, or planning board requests pertaining to “like-fashioned” retailers such as Family Dollar or Dollar Tree to permit the county time to reexamine its land use policy. Proximity of other like retailers to the one planned would alone negate the necessity of adding another discount retailer and may dissuade future developers from considering placing a full-service grocery store in a saturated area.

Waiting and watching

Two weeks removed from the request there was no agenda item pertaining to the moratorium at this week’s board meeting. A lack of movement did nothing to calm the nerves of residents fearing what may be coming.

“We thought we made it abundantly clear we do not want their store,” Teresa Levia said of Teramore Development LLC and their previous efforts to rezone in Sheltontown. Speaking in support of the moratorium and controlled growth however does not mean she is anti-development or business she said stating, “I am for free enterprise.”

Heather Moore, of Moore’s General Store, agreed and presented the board with data from a poll their group had conducted and found the answers to be consistent amongst themselves: the same percentage answered the same way across the questions.

Of the nearly 100 participants of the survey, she reported that 94% supported a county ordinance on like-fashioned retailers and that 97% said those stores hurt locally owned businesses. The survey was confirmed to have been open to all members of the public and Moore said it remains open at this time.

The survey is found at:

Like a politician with a polished stump speech, the opposition has talking points they use to make their case. Often referenced is a moratorium in Wilmington on such retail growth that never came to be. The city council there dropped the proposed language change to their land use plan when the final version was approved.

It was reported that council members perceived that there was not enough research presented on the issue and it was removed from the final language that was approved. Melissa Hiatt said she has spoken to local representatives there who have told her the issue will be revisited.

“There appeared to be no consensus on council concerning those requirements,” a city spokesperson explained in an email that was cited by the Port City Daily of Wilmington on the same date. Melissa Hiatt said Friday she has had conversations with local authorities and that they are “continuing their efforts” to make a change.

Free will vs. public want

In a new twist to the recent discussions, there was an opponent to those seeking to limit dollar-type stores. Angela Leonard said her parents had worked hard to get the money together to open a business and that after many years they retired due to health reasons. That land though is her family’s and if they wanted to open a new business on land they own, and have owned, she feels that is their right to do so.

Leonard was the first to give voice to the counterargument that individual liberties are being infringed upon by the side opposing the dollar-style stores. She asked if it was fair for residents to have such power over the potential growth or expansion of private businesses.

Moore’s General Store is often mentioned as an example of one of the existing businesses that could be hurt by new retail grown, but Leonard asked if they too would be subject to judgment on the merits of expansion by the collective opinions of the neighborhood. She went a step further asking the board rhetorically if such opposition from residents may one day follow to home improvement projects as well.

The survey that was shown to the commissioners showed that on almost all questions the answers were 90% the same – meaning Leonard knew walking up to the podium she would be speaking for a minority point of view, but she felt that was exactly the point. She asked the board, “Who is looking out for the citizens who are afraid of the backlash and may be scared to speak out?”

William Lawrence sees it differently and was one of the property owners of the home on Quaker Road where Teramore Development LLC last attempted a new location.

He noted the strong opposition and the dozens of yellow signs that had dotted Sheltontown as perhaps being part of what changed the outcome of that scenario.

Townships and communities that lack strong representation are being targeted by Teramore, he claimed, adding that not all communities have the strength to coalesce as Sheltontown did for a coordinated fight. He feels residents have a right to have a say about the quality of life in their communities.



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