Even though the town’s planning board didn’t favor the idea of building a small hotel on a plot of land across Pearces Road from Sheetz, the land owners remain positive that eventually, the land can be used.
“If it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world,” said Chad Ray, who owns the land with his mother, Betty Ray. “Something will go there.”
The Rays operate Olde Heritage Real Estate and already have a project on Pearces Road. The Rays leased their land to Sheetz for the gas station to operate and were required to pay for the stoplight and widening the road when Sheetz came to town to handle the expected traffic.
But that traffic is one of the reasons the planning board and some residents oppose a possible hotel, which would be across Pearces Road from Sheetz.
The proposed hotel would be a two-story, 40-unit hotel called Beacon Inn. It would be a ‘business motel,’ with no lounge, restaurant, conference room or other amenities, but all rooms would be accessed from the inside like higher-end hotels.
A Raleigh-based real estate company, Skybridge Group, LLC is the development company looking to place the hotel.
Residents from Wakelon Townhomes, which back up to Sheetz, attended a public hearing, and said the noise and traffic created by Sheetz on Pearces Road was already too much, and a hotel would only add to the trouble.
“Sheetz has been a huge asset to this community, they employ lots of people and they’re a fantastic company,” Ray said. “I don’t think it’s fair to make it out to be a bad company because they’re not.”
Wakelon residents complained of the around-the-clock noise from Sheetz customers and even mentioned that the buffer between their neighborhood and the gas station- a row of trees- was not good enough.
And, they said, the added traffic from the hotel would put too much of a burden on Pearces Road and create even more traffic in their neighborhood, where drivers make U-turns or drive through to find an alternative route to Sheetz (there is not alternative route from the Wakelon neighborhood).
A “respectful” opinion
The planning board heard the Wakelon residents and decided to make the recommendation to the board of commisioners not to approve the project because of the concerns raised by residents.
“That was their opinion and I respect that,” Ray said. “I don’t agree with it but I respect it.”
Ray said he and his mother are always looking for projects that will allow positive growth in Zebulon, which has been why the Rays have turned away other projects on the land, including a Waffle House.
“I don’t apply a lot of pressure to any relationship until I find really the one I’m looking for,” he said. “I didn’t go running after Waffle House or anyone we talked to over the years.”
Ray said he wanted a project that would benefit Zebulon residents and business owners. A hotel, he said, would be better than a high-volume, big-chain, drive-thru restaurant.
“It’s real important to us to bring new business to Zebulon to benefit as many residents possible,” he said.
The proposed hotel draws visitors, who will spend money locally. Plus, Ray said, traffic will be a problem Zebulon needs to be ready to handle if the town wants to see development.
“Traffic is a concern for every … place on the planet,” he said “It’s not a unique problem, it’s something everyone has to deal with as things grow.”
Ray said he went through just as trying of a process when the Sheetz was in the works. It was hard to rezone the land and convince the town the positives of a Sheetz would outweigh the negatives.
He said he’s not worried about the initial opposition to the hotel. He would like to see the project come to fruition, but understands if it doesn’t.
“If I didn't think this was the best thing for Zebulon, I wouldn't be doing it,” Ray said. “If it doesn't happen it’s not the end of the world, something will go there.”