Clayton News-Star

Clayton leaders approve zoning for new Sheetz

Sheetz plans to build a store at this intersection in Clayton.
Sheetz plans to build a store at this intersection in Clayton.

While Clayton leaders continue to advance a planned Sheetz on U.S. 70 Business, the convenience store’s residential neighbors remain at odds over the project.

A divided Clayton Town Council on Monday rezoned 2.5 acres for the store near U.S. 70 Business and Rose Street, an area town planners have tapped for future commercial development.

But to move forward, Sheetz still needs a special-use permit, which the council will consider after a community meeting this summer. Special-use permits typically include conditions developers must meet at a site.

“This council is going to make sure that whoever is developing ... will work diligently to satisfy the neighbors and especially the adjoining property owners,” said Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod.

The neighborhood includes about 45 residential lots, and five property owners intend to sell seven lots to Sheetz. Other neighbors are concerned about the impact of the project, and many signed a petition opposing the rezoning.

Neighbors Joel and Jennifer Mercer, of nearby Tulip Street, helped lead the effort against Sheetz, raising concerns about increased traffic and lower property values. But in an email to McLeod on March 31, Joel Mercer said neighbors realize “commercial development is inevitable.” He offered alternatives he said would benefit all parties, including not allowing Sheetz to build until surrounding properties were rezoned or sold.

“I believe that these conditions would promote uniform expansion of commercial zoning along (U.S. 70 Business) up to this intersection, as well as isolate the negative impacts to the current residential character and lifestyle in the remainder of the neighborhood,” Mercer wrote in his email.

Clayton’s Strategic Growth Plan shows the intersection poised for commercial development, as it sits along a planned connector highway that will join N.C. 42 West and N.C. 42 East via Rose Street. Councilman Jason Thompson, who cast the lone vote against the rezoning, said it’s unclear when the state will build the connector.

“I think it’s a worthwhile process, and in time, it will be the right use for the property,” Thompson said. “I don’t think that time is now.”

In 2010, the Town Council denied a similar rezoning request near the proposed Sheetz site. However, Town Planning Director David DeYoung said the 2010 request didn’t include a specific use and involved fewer lots.

Sheetz will next submit a site plan likely to include improvements to Rose Street, turning lanes and buffers between the store and other properties. The town’s Technical Review Committee and Planning Board will review the site plan, DeYoung said.

The neighborhood meeting, which is not yet scheduled, will allow neighbors to weigh in on the site plan.

“This is not the end of the process,” said Gray Styers, an attorney representing Sheetz. “This is the start of the process.”

During a required public hearing on the rezoning, Styers told councilmen he understands the neighbors’ concerns, but it’s important to remember property owners who do want to sell.

“What’s the appropriate land use for a road that handles 22,000 vehicles a day?” Styers said. “It’s not residential.”

In other business, the council approved a resolution seeking state approval to borrow $2 million to finance improvements to the town’s electric system. The borrowing is subject to approval by the state’s Local Government Commission. The town would repay the money from electric system revenues, but the borrowing would not require a rate increase, the town said.