Last year, residents near the intersection of New Hope and Buffaloe roads were overwhelmingly opposed to plans that would have put a 24-hour Sheetz gas station in their neighborhood.
Residents knew exactly what they did not want, and they made it clear through months of public comments and petition drives that ended with the city council voting down the rezoning plan.
Now, residents are hoping their ideas about what they would like to see instead become part of the city’s planning documents.
At a workshop city officials held Tuesday, more than 50 residents weighed in with their ideas for the neighborhood, emphasizing the need for development that preserves its quiet, peaceful character and allows for safe streets and sidewalks for drivers, bikers and pedestrians.
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Residents differed on what precisely they would prefer to see, with some more amenable to commercial development than others. For those inclined to favor businesses, buildings such as fitness centers and medical offices were popular choices.
During the workshop, city planners worked with small groups of residents to refine their ideas and decide what matters most to them.
They’ll now gather the feedback into a report, distribute it for public comment and then present the findings to the city council. The planners also will make recommendations about how city planning policies might accommodate what residents are looking for.
Michele McIntosh, a resident who helped make the request for the workshop through the Northeast Citizens Advisory Council, said she’s optimistic about where it will lead.
“I am hopeful,” she said. “I did like the positive focus.”
Jean Edwards owns the land at the northeast corner of Buffaloe and New Hope roads, the site of the proposed Sheetz.
Edwards inherited the land from a relative and still is looking to sell. She hopes the workshop will be a step toward finding a buyer that fits into the neighborhood.
“I thought it was a very meaningful experience,” she said of the workshop.
The owners of a larger parcel of undeveloped land at the southeast corner of the intersection also attended the meeting.
Tom Bartholomew and John McLawhorn, two in the group of the parcel’s owners, said they’re not ready to say what may come of the land. But they’re eager to hear what residents have in mind.
“We’re listening. We’re very attuned to what’s being said,” Bartholomew said.
Councilman John Odom, who represents the area on the city council, said he was encouraged by how many city staff members helped answer questions at the meeting and by initial reports from residents who attended.
Odom opposed the Sheetz rezoning. He said Wednesday that he didn’t want the first business on the undeveloped land to be a gas station, but he’s open to businesses in general.
“Commercial is still a good option for those corners,” he said.