Smithfield Herald

Council approves convenience store, grant for East Smithfield

The Town Council has given the green light to a businessman who wants to reopen a convenience store on East Market Street.

C.A. “Wimpy” Byrd plans to open a store in the former New York Market space near the entrance to Smithfield’s Belmont neighborhood. A fire several years heavily damaged the building, which has since been restored.

At a meeting earlier this spring, some neighbors opposed Byrd’s plan, recalling that the New York Market attracted what they called hoodlums. But in approving Byrd’s request, the council required him to erect a 6-foot fence and plant vegetation between the store and nearby houses, and that seemed to satisfy neighbors.

Byrd had no qualms with erecting a buffer, but he wondered why he needed both a fence and vegetation. The council, however, did not budge.

Belmont resident Troy Nixon said the two-prong buffer was a much-needed safety barrier for neighbors.

Many of them complain that New York Market was often a gathering place for indigents and criminals, who would get drunk or engage in other illegal activities.

“They just felt it would be better for them if there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic going in and out of their property,” Nixon said of his neighbors.

The Town Council also told Byrd to close access to his store from Fayetteville Street, a nearby residential street. He said that could make it hard for trucks delivering goods to get in and out of the back.

“When tractor-trailers come in and unload, how are they going to get in and out of the driveway?” Byrd said.

But the council held firm, and Nixon said neighbors wanted to be shielded from traffic. “Children and also elderly people will be trying to access the store, along with those tractor-trailers,” he said.

Town secures grant

Council members learned that the Raleigh Area Development Authority had secured a $50,000 grant to study infrastructure needs in East Smithfield.

That part of town has many vacant, rundown houses, and some flooding woes remain despite a substantial drainage project in the 1990s.

The RADA will use the grant dollars to hire a staff member who will study East Smithfield’s needs and pursue federal grants that could fund revitalization.

“It’s not $50,000 that’s going to the community,” said Councilman Perry Harris. “It’s strictly to help (RADA president Wallace) Green apply for grants for that area.”

The grant has stirred controversy, with Councilman Charles Williams calling on the council to cut ties with Green.

At a recent council meeting, Williams confused the RADA grant with another, unsuccessful grant that would have funded downtown development. He called the grant application a bait-and-switch.

Williams made the same mistake this month. After accusing Town Manager Paul Sabiston of misleading residents, he demanded to see documentation that the RADA grant was going to East Smithfield.

“If it’s a grant and it’s not going to Belmont, let’s see some documentation of where it’s going,” Williams said.

Fellow Councilman Charles A. Williams (no relation) made a motion to accept the grant if staff provides a written statement saying the money will go to help East Smithfield. The motion passed without dissent.