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Panel OKs commercial for Watauga lots; action park meeting tonight

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The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A 6-2 vote by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a request to rezone two lots for commercial development in the Higgs Neighborhood bordering the 10th Street Connector.

Kenneth and Christine Lloyd asked the commission at its Nov. 20 meeting to rezone the lots along Watauga Avenue south of Farmville Boulevard from residential (high density multi-family) to heavy commercial, which will match the zoning for six adjacent lots they own to the north. The new zoning, if given final approval by the City Council, will allow for a wide variety of businesses. 

The request was opposed by residents concerned about the encroachment of commercial development in the neighborhood they believe will be fueled by construction of the connector. They also were concerned that such development would lead to an increase in crime — a convenience store previously located on the lot was condemned as a nuisance because of drugs and shootings associated with it.

Rufus Huggins, a former city councilman whose church is in the neighborhood, implored the board to recommend denial of the rezoning as it had denied a previous request involving a total of seven lots. He asked the board to encourage the return of residential development and to replace homes demolished by the road construction.

“We feel in that neighborhood, as we have done in the past, that we can work together with our present City Council that has done so much for our neighborhood already ... that we can put those houses back there, that have been torn down, because they were taken away and people understood that they would be put back and that has not happened,” Huggins said.

“My minister asked me to relay the fact that we support growth and we support business, but we support orderly growth and not at the expense of people living in the neighborhood, and we ask, primarily for the reason you voted against it last time, that you vote against it this time,” he said.

The previous request encroached deeper into the neighborhood and was considered out of compliance with the city’s land-use plan by city staff. Staff ruled that the revised request was in compliance. 

Property owner Kenneth Lloyd told the board that he did not want to build a convenience store on the property, though he could have placed one on the six lots that are already commercially zoned. The additional lots are needed to give developers more flexibility on possible uses, said Steve Spruill, the surveyor representing Lloyd.

“I understand the reluctance to see commercial come in again,” Spuill said. But much of the property already is zoned commercial so that type of development is already allowed, he said.

“This (rezoning) gives the applicant more flexibility to come up with a use that is more friendly to the neighborhood,” he said.

Lloyd introduced Dewitt Newkirk of Unshakable Builders as the person who would develop the property. Newkirk said he was not at liberty spell out his plans for the property “but anything we’re going put there will be positive, something nice.”

In other business, the board also voted unanimously to recommend for approval the following requests: 

■ Scotland Management LLC and Happy Trail Farms LLC asked to rezone 7.362 acres located along Frog Level Road north of Davenport Farm Road. The partnerships want to change 6.410 acres from office to residential medium density and 0.952 acres from office to neighborhood commercial.

■ East Carolina Inn asked to rezone 4.793 acres located at the southeastern corner of the intersection of Stantonsburg Road and Moye Boulevard from medical-support to medical-heavy commercial.

■ Happy Trail Farms sought approval for a preliminary plat for West Arlington Commercial Park, to be located west of Arlington Boulevard and south of the Norfolk Southern Railway. The proposed plat consists of 11 lots total ing 55.075 acres

ACTION PARK MEETING

Greenville Recreation and Parks is holding a public meeting at 6 p.m. today to present concepts and receive feedback on a proposed “action park” that likely will encompass a BMX/skateboard facility with outdoor activities such as canoeing, paddle boarding and camping.

The meeting will be in the third floor gallery of City Hall, 200 W. Fifth St. A representative from Stewart, a design, engineering and planning firm, will be on hand to provide details about what amenities may be included in the park and to discuss phases of construction.

A location for the facility has not been announced, although officials have scouted several areas, Recreation and Park Directory Gary Fenton said earlier this month. 

“We have several ideas in mind, several sites that would be appropriate,” he said. 

One of the first activities that will be located is a BMX/skateboarding facility. Leaders in the local BMX leadership and representatives of the family of the late Dave Mirra, a pioneer in competitive BMX performance, are interested in undertaking a fundraising effort for the project, Fenton said. The existing BMX facility at Jaycee Park has been a great benefit to the Greenville community, he said, but it is no longer state of the art.

Other offerings would reflect the desires of the community, he said.

“If we have the right piece of land it could be an almost rural adventure, outdoors environment but not be totally distant from the center of our city,” he said. Fenton said there could be space for overnight camping, picnicking, zip lining and water-based activities.

Fenton said staff expects to share details of the proposed acquisition and development plans with the City Council at its annual planning session is January.

Bobby Burns and Ginger Livingston contributed to this report.

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