Monday, June 24, 2024

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Burlington planning board recommends against rezoning for two car lots; OKs conversion of third area from heavy to light industrial


Burlington’s planning and zoning commission was not enamored of two rezoning proposals for car lots in two areas of the city during its latest meeting Monday night, voting unanimously against recommending either to the city council. A third request, from a church ministry, was favorably received and recommended.


806 South Mebane Street

The first of three requests heard during the meeting concerned a .35-acre parcel at 806 South Mebane Street that’s currently zoned for neighborhood business development.

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Iyad Qutaishat, the owner of this particular lot, is seeking a limited form of general business zoning that would permit any of 16 potential uses – or roughly one-seventh of 114 options that are ordinarily available in a general business district. These prospective uses include auto sales or rentals; a coffee shop; a laundry service; a nail or beauty salon; a professional, sales, or medial office; a convenience store without gas pumps; and a restaurant minus a drive-thru. Also included in the list of proposed uses are a farmer’s market, a community center, a community garden, or multi-family housing. It may be worth noting, however, that of all these proposes uses, auto rentals or sales are the only ones not already allowed under the property’s existing zoning.

The underlying actual purpose of the property owner’s request, as explained by his real estate agent Rasheed Abdallah, is to establish a small car lot at the second building (now apparently vacant) that currently occupies the property.  The first is a convenience store.

Lisa Stewart and Lydia Jones with the Morrowtown Community Group opposed the proposed rezoning and said the owner of the convenience store needs to “clean up” its operation.
A small used car operation would be run out of this second (now vacant) building beside the convenience store at 806 South Mebane Street.
This is the convenience store that drew the concern of area residents, who said litter, drug paraphernalia, and people drinking alcohol out front are already a problem for the neighborhood.

Abdallah said that the auto sales would be next to the convenience store. He elaborated that there were would be no reconditioning and no repairs, “strictly auto sales,” which would take place between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. six days a week (closed on Sunday).

Planning board member Lee Roane noted that it is a “very small lot,” and members spent some time trying to understand what part of the lot would have cars for sale and how many.

The proposal drew strenuous opposition from two residents representing the Morrowtown Community Group, a community organization that advocates on behalf of the predominantly black neighborhood several blocks behind and adjacent to the convenience store and proposed car lot. Lisa Stewart and Lydia Jones were present to oppose the rezoning.

“Trash is everywhere,” said Stewart, alluding to the property up for rezoning, noting that community members pick up trash regularly in the parking lot and have found “drug paraphernalia on the grounds,” as well.

“This is not the change this community needs,” Stewart said, urging that the store be cleaned up first.

She also alleged that some people who buy alcohol in the store are then drinking right out in front of the store.

Planning board member Charlie Beasley recommended the denial of the rezoning, which was seconded by Roane and approved unanimously, 6-0, by the planning board.

In addition to Beasley and Roane, the members present and voting for the motion for denial included chairman John Black and members Richard Parker, Hilary Hill, and Joan Zec Nelson.

Nonetheless, the proposal will ultimately come before the city council for consideration.


106 South Broad Street

The second request, on a larger lot (1.21 acres out of a 1.67-acre total size) at  the corner of East Webb Avenue and South Broad Street, did not fare any better.

Oscar Arechiga filed this request on behalf of the landowner – Jose Silva, who he explained was his cousin – in furtherance of a project dubbed “Target Auto Sales.”

The applicant has requested two potential uses in preference to the property’s current office and institutional zoning. These two activities are identified in the rezoning request as “auto sales or rentals” and “wholesale sales.” These prospective new uses would only apply to the 1.21 acres up for rezoning and not the balance of the property facing East Davis Street, which would retain its current designation for medium-density residential development.

Oscar Arechiga
The former Carter Bank Building, at the corner of South Broad Street and East Webb Avenue has been vacant for about 2½ years.

Arechiga said he would probably start with about 10 to 15 cars for sale, ultimately rising to around 30 or more cars.  He said the ultimate number of cars, 30, would probably be “too large to start with, but he would grow into it.” He projected possibly 20 to 25 cars for sale in about two years.

There is a former bank building on the property; it had been operated as Carter Bank, but has been vacant for about two-and-a-half years.

Jamie Lawson, the city’s planning director, pointed out that the proposed rezoning is inconsistent with existing zoning in the area and the city’s long-term land use plan, which envisions mixed-use development in the area.

This time it was Roane who recommended denial, with Beasley seconding, and again the planning board voted unanimously, 6-0, against the proposed rezoning. Its fate, too, will ultimately be decided by the city council.


1214 Maple Avenue

Burlington’s planning staff gave its blessing to a request concerning a .89-acre lot that Andy Albright owns at 1214 Maple Avenue – even though, like the previous two that were denied, the proposed rezoning is inconsistent with the city’s long-term land use plan.

Nonetheless Lawson said that the request for light industrial rezoning was an improvement over the lot’s existing zoning designation as heavy industrial.

RCCG Restoration has asked the city to change this parcel’s zoning from its current heavy industrial designation to a limited form of light industrial use. The applicant’s request seeks a total of 10 possible uses, or less than 10 percent of the 98 activities that are ordinarily allowed in a light industrial zone. These proposed uses range from light manufacturing and warehousing to a restaurant, gym, event center, or coffee shop and a religious institution.

The planning board adopted a favorable recommendation on the rezoning unanimously, 6-0.

It, too, will ultimately come before the city council.

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