Polivka’s office plea approved

After a nearly five-hour public hearing, Basil Polivka received approval from Weddington Town Council to build the corporate headquarters of Polivka International at 13700 Providence Road.

Polivka requested a mixed-use conditional rezoning for a 15,000-square-foot office building. The request was met with mixed feelings from residents – some firmly against commercial development in a town they’d like to stay more rural, others coming to the defense of Polivka and the developer’s right to use the land.

It was standing-room only in the Weddington Town Hall, with residents lining the walls and crowding in the door for much of the more than four-hour meeting. But in then end, a 3 to 2 vote by town council members paved the way for the two-story brick office building, complete with a 70-space parking lot.

Many residents who spoke requested that the decision be delayed until after the land-use survey was completed and analyzed, citing problems with the current land use plan. Mayor Walker Davidson and Councilman Werner Thomisser agreed, and voted against the request.

After several attempts by different councilmembers to delay the meeting until later in the month, or until December, residents and the applicant were able to speak.

John Temple, representing Polivka, said he appreciated the town working with the developer.

“It’s been a long process, but a good one,” he said. “I believe we have met every requirement along the process.”

Former Mayor Nancy Anderson spoke at the hearing as the resident most affected by the proposed development. Anderson requested the decision be delayed, adding that she wanted the development moved down the hill and farther from Hunter Farm, of which she is the custodian.

“I think we have a great opportunity to be a shining example, not just to coexist,” she said. “We can be what every community aspires to, if we just work together. I don’t see why we can’t compromise. Just pull it down the hill. That’s all you need to do.”

Anderson wanted a greater buffer between the farm and the development, at least 50 feet rather than the 25 feet currently shown by the development plans.

“Once we do this, it’s forever,” she said. “Asphalt is the last crop you will ever plant.”

Anderson left shortly after her speech and was not present for the remainder of the hearing and the decision, though council members wished to ask her further questions.

Neighbors battled back and forth over the hours, trying to sway council their way.

• Chris Rey, resident of the Steeple Chase neighborhood, said no one in Weddington approved of the development.

“Virtually no citizen of Weddington is in favor of this,” he said. “We don’t want any more commercial development than we already have.”

• Janice Prost, another resident, disagreed.

“(Basil Polivka) is a resident of this community, he wishes the best for Weddington,” she said. “He could put four houses on that hill and no one on this council could do anything about it. There are houses in Weddington bigger than (15,000 square feet). They would be an asset to the community.”

• Richard Saley said that Polivka’s development would change the atmosphere of the town.

“I moved here for the tranquil, rural atmosphere of this town,” he said. “And it has been everything I hoped it would be. Weddington is an island of tranquility. Please keep it that way.”

• Laura Carver, of Steeple Chase, said the development would not benefit the residents of Weddington.

“This is extremely close to the highway,” she said. “There are going to be wrecks there, I can already tell you. This does not serve the community like the shopping center across the street does.”

Carver, like several other residents who spoke at the meeting, was concerned about flooding and runoff affecting her property.

“I already have a problem,” she said. “This will make it worse.”

• Rob Downing, a member of the town’s planning board, spoke up as a resident.

“I understand (council) is doing what (they) feel is best for the people of Weddington,” he said. “I disagree. I’m concerned that this is the first of many. They bought the property zoned (residential) when it had already been turned down once. They took a risk.”

• Carroll McCloud said she could see Weddington residents benefitting from the development financially.

“I see it as a tax base,” she said. “I see it as an opportunity to bring services to Weddington that we do not have. They’ve followed the rules. We’re lacking. We need some services here. We have to have balance. We’re not rural anymore.”

• Judy Johnston said she believes the development would fit with the town.

“They’ve tried to make it blend to Weddington as much as possible,” she said. “That (parcel) only lends itself to use as a light business. It only makes sense. Council will have more control over a business than they would residential. Sooner or later more businesses will come to Weddington. Weddington is way out of balance.”

In the end, council approved the request on the grounds that it aligned with the current land-use plan and that conditions outlined by the planning board would be met – such as lighting regulations and an attempt to save large trees on the property.

The planning board previously approved the request with a 5 to 1 vote, which was passed on as a recommendation for council.

Later, councilwoman Barbara Harris tried to assuage fears of some residents that this would be the first of many commercial developments to come to Weddington.

“This in no way implies that I have to say yes to any other zoning requests,” she said.

John Temple, the developer’s representative, said he was pleased with the result of the hearing.

“We’re thrilled, of course,” he said. “It’s been a long, but healthy, process and we look forward to working with council, the planning board and the residents of Weddington.”

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