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  • Jefferson Weaver

Rezoning approved beside bypass

A 28-acre tract of prime commercial property that was zoned for several different uses can now be developed.

The Whiteville City Council approved the rezoning request from Jonathan Cox and Marlowe Farms on Tuesday. The changes affects two former tobacco warehouses (including the current Cox Discount Furniture Warehouse) and a stretch of farmland at the intersection of U.S. 74-76, U.S. 701 North, and Smyrna Road.

City Planner Hiram Marziano said the tracts were zoned RA-20 Residential Agricultural and I-2 Industrial. Changing the designation to B-3 Highway Serving Business District is consistent with the city’s land use plan as well as other properties in the area, Marziano said.

Earlier this month, Cox said there are no immediate plans for the property, but the owners wanted to make the change to open up the possibility for future development.

“I’d like to think of nice retail going in there,” he said. “Being right beside the highway (74-76), it’s a great location.”

The only speaker during Tuesday’s public hearing on the request was attorney Coburn Powell, representing Missionary Alliance Church. Powell said the church owns property farther down Smyrna Road but not adjacent to the site. Its congregation is supportive of the move, Powell said.

Marziano said the former farm property could make an excellent retail development, with traffic access via Smyrna as well as U.S. 701.

“It’s not really an attractive place to build a home, as is allowed in the RA-20 zoning, and the small sliver that’s zoned industrial isn’t big enough to do much with,” he explained. “This way the entire property is under the same designation, and the allowed uses are more realistic.”

Under Highway Serving Business District, retail businesses, restaurants and similar establishments are allowed.

Although neighboring properties are zoned RA-20, Marziano said, proper planning can avoid most conflicts with any future residential development or existing homes.

The planning board, in forwarding its positive endorsement to the city council, requested that the owners ensure the property’s appearance is maintained, due to its location at a gateway to the city.

“Because these commercial areas are subject to public view, which is a matter of important concern to the whole community,” the planning board wrote, “they should provide (ways to maintain) appropriate appearance, ample parking, and minimize traffic congestion.”

Marziano also pointed out that the expansion of U.S. 701 in the next few years will play a part in the development of the property.

“With the widening and division of U.S. 701 … planned development with ease of access from and back to the highway is essential, and the layout of this land would definitely support this type of development.”

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