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Normally a tranquil affair, this week’s Monday night meeting of the Surry County Planning Committee was anything but. Sheltontown residents came into force to express their desire to block a motion to rezon Teramore Development’s Westfield Road.

Teramore sounds familiar because the company is known in the area for building Dollar Generals and would like to build more.

Retailer officials say this part of the district is showing growth and they see a need for another retail option to accommodate future growth. New Dollar Generals with larger floor plans, they said, will also incorporate fresh fruit and a larger selection of frozen/cold goods to better serve residents.

Sheltontown residents organized in preparation for the planning committee meeting by gathering at Westfield Church of Brethren, directly opposite the proposed DG site at 2953 Westfield Road, at Westfield Church of Brethren. When the weather turned bad, organizers Heather Moore and Melissa Hiatt moved the strategy session indoors so the group could figure out their lineup.

Residents gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition opposing a proposal to convert two lots on Westfield Road from Residential General to Rural Business Conditional. They also created and installed yard signs that read “Say No to Rezoning Sheltontown” in a bright yellow color reminiscent of Dollar General’s color.

The public was allowed to speak at the meeting. Sheltontown residents explained why they themselves object to the rezoning application and do not specifically object to Dollar General. Any commercial development along Westfield Road would raise similar concerns, whether or not it was a proposed dollar store.

They say it would encroach on the area’s natural beauty, disturb wildlife, lower property values, increase traffic (including foot traffic) and fear it could attract crime. The group presented available crime statistics at the meeting to show comparison between similar types of retail outlets. Busy Bee and Moore’s General Store reportedly had a comparative fraction of calls from law enforcement of any kind.

Chris Hiatt lives 200 yards from the proposed Dollar General. His family has deep roots in this area, he estimates that he is the tenth or eleventh generation from Hiatt to live in Sheltontown. “I’m one of four who still live there, three are represented in the room tonight. That’s about 200 years my family lives within a three to four mile radius.”

“I’ve seen traffic patterns change, what used to be factory traffic is now all day traffic – that’s all we need. We have a rural environment, most of us know our neighbors and what day they mow their garden or what kind of car they drive.”

“One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for more commercial and retail outlets in Sheltontown. If Moore’s General Store or Busy Bee don’t have it, the other Dollar Generals will take care of it. We don’t want our community to look like 601 Rockford St. We no longer need grass, trees or flowers to be replaced by asphalt and cement. We are happy the way we are.”

Melissa Hiatt began with the six applicable points of the county’s land use plan. In some cases, the land use plan calls for use decisions that preserve open space; maintaining quality of life; promote development of unused buildings; create sustainable economic growth to include higher paying jobs. She also noted that this lot is designated as rural in the 2039 zoning plan — just as it is today.

She hammered home that decisions “should encourage isolated stores in mostly rural areas on a case-by-case basis if facilities aren’t already available nearby”. No way does she see the need for a sixth dollar general within five miles of Sheltontown.

“Teramore’s built businesses don’t offer amenities we don’t already have. We currently have two wonderful family run family owned general stores within a two mile radius.”

Conversely, Greensboro land use attorney Nick Blackwood expressed his opinion that this rezoning request was consistent with the county’s land use plan. “(It) appears that your land development regulation itself contemplated precisely this type of commercial development when this regulation was enacted to allow for this type of isolated commercial use for these specific rural areas that we are talking about here tonight. “

Mike Fox, who represented Teramore on the planning committee, concluded: “Just a reminder, this is a land use decision… It’s the use that the Board is considering tonight and they’re considering whether or not it conforms to your plan, which is what we mean.” it does. We believe it is not within the purview of land use decisions to pick winners and losers.”

At the air pump at Moore’s General Store on Wednesday, a local resident said he didn’t see a need for more retail options: “We released one in Bannertown, why do we need one here? Where are they going to put it anyway?”

Add Betsy Davis to the list of those who say needs are met. “In Sheltontown, we have all the amenities we need in our current community stores, and if on a crazy day — that’s never happened — they didn’t have something, there are five Dollar Generals within a five-mile radius and two of those within.” by two, I think our bases are covered. We chose this area precisely because of the quiet rural setting and I hope it stays that way.”

Inside Moore’s, Tarren Wright was checking out as she picked up one of the bright yellow signs. “I think there are too many dollar generals. (Moore’s) is just so convenient and has gas, groceries, supplies, hardware, beer, jerky and fishing gear.”

Behind the counter, Russell Davis loves to hear customers appreciate Moore’s and that support for the fight against rezoning has drawn attention from outside the area. Some of the yellow signs, he said, had already appeared at Pilot Mountain.

“It’s not even just Dollar General, we don’t want anything else out here. I was born across the street from the property in question and moved back from Ohio. I came back here because of the quality of life. People come here to be close to the city but not quite in the city.”

Joe Davis has the house across from the construction site and said it would give “a headache that we were deliberately trying to avoid when we moved into our home 37 years ago.” He demanded that a rededication for commercial purposes be denied: “Please help us to protect our way of life in our community.”

The residences’ names may have changed, but the sense of community Melody White hasn’t shared with the board. She grew up going to Sheltontown Grocery, now Moore’s General Store. She appreciates the sense of community, “Conversations go ‘how was the game’ or ‘how’s your back?’ because neighbors know. Neighbors have skin in it.”

She was a real estate agent in Mount Airy and shared how she helped a couple relocate to North Carolina after an exhaustive search. They chose this area for the very reasons the Sheltontown Group opposes the rezoning: the peace and quiet of a rural community coupled with its natural beauty.

One argument the opposition used had to do with the North Carolina Scenic Byway, which runs along Westfield Road. In fact, Mary Rush told the board that the Hanging Rock section of the back road began just a stone’s throw from the Sheltontown Church of the Brethren. It should be noted that the bike path also runs along this route, and the bike path and byway were naturally intended to attract tourists. The board has been told that tourists come here for green spaces, not Dollar General.

After the residents presented their case, the board took a moment to comment to the moderators before moving on to have Teramore’s motion to regroup. It passed the planning board to thunderous applause from the crowd.

The group is now preparing to address the Board of District Commissioners, which is meeting in Dobson at 6pm on Monday evening. Commissioners could choose to approve the land rezoning request at this point, although the planning committee said no.

There is precedent for Salisbury City Council members breaking with their city planning committee in May to approve a new Dollar General, despite strong local objections.

Heather Moore welcomed the group’s success at the planning board this week and hopes other communities will be watching. “Sheltontown has appeared. This is only the first victory as our fight continues next Monday in front of the district commissioners. Remember, this could happen in your neighborhood just as easily as it ‘trying’ to happen in ours.”

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