By Yustin Riopko
MONROE — Union County commissioners will soon decide whether to let developers build up to 30,600 square feet for commercial and retail business at the intersection of Waxhaw-Indian Trail and Beulah Church roads. The parcel is currently zoned residential.
The county’s planning board voted Sept. 1 to recommend commissioners approve the rezoning petition.
The next step for Beulah Church Road Developers LLC will be to present the project to commissioners at a public hearing slated for Oct. 5. A decision won’t be made until Oct. 19 at the earliest.
Mark Kime, a landscape architect with LandDesign, told planning board members 30,600 square feet is the max.
“That doesn’t mean that’s entirely what we’re gonna build,” Kime said. “If a single user wants the whole lot for one specific use, we would certainly consider that and it might be significantly less in square footage.”
In fact, other than excluding gas stations and drive-thrus, developers don’t know yet what kind of businesses they’d be building for. If approved, the space could be used for any number of things, including animal grooming or training, business support, medical or vet offices personal improvement.
According to applicant Dean Harrell, there’s no clear vision for the site at this time. It could be one big building for a single tenant or three smaller buildings with space for up to five different tenants.
Adjacent property owners Jennifer and Chris Lowery said there are too many unknowns.
“‘Well, it could be this or it could be that,'” Jennifer Lowery said. “A lot of those this and thats could bring noise and lights right into our neighborhood. We like to live where we are because it’s away from the hustle and bustle, but you can still get to things conveniently when you want to. I don’t want that choice and right taken away from me and my family.”
Chris Lowery worried about too much new traffic in and around the Casalino neighborhood.
Other neighbors spoke up too, including Joshua Wilson, who pointed out there’s already 198,000 square feet approved and undeveloped less than two miles up the road.
“If you go the other way down Potter Road toward Chestnut, we have a dentist’s office, animal care, 40,000 square feet that has just been built that is still empty. It’s not being used,” Wilson said. “You go the other direction down Waxhaw-Indian Trail Road to Old Monroe Road, and they have three other buildings that are sitting there empty. You go to the other side by New York Pizza — they can’t keep anybody in those places.
“It concerns me,” Wilson said, “that we’re wanting to build yet another commercial establishment and we can’t keep the stuff filled that’s right out our door already.”
Developers said they’re willing to build there anyway, since so many new residential projects are underway nearby.
“We understand that during this COVID, there’s plenty of empty space and more coming available daily,” Harrell said. “It’s out of our hands. However, as an investor and a resident and builder in Union County, if I want to put my dollars into this corner and invest in building … I don’t think anyone should judge us for that.”
Board member Louis Philippi wasn’t too worried about the complaints either.
“The reality of the matter is, if you have a tenant who’s running a topless bar and people are out in the street screaming and yelling, the other places aren’t gonna be rented and the landlord’s gonna kick him out,” Philippi said. “No matter how you slice it, I’ve seen a million shopping centers in the course of my life. I’ve never seen a tenant who caused difficulty in the community, because it’s just not allowed.”
Board member Jonathan Thomas said the traffic concerns are directly at odds with the concerns about vacant property. Thomas also lives adjacent to the parcel.
“Obviously we’d all love for it to stay the way it is,” Thomas said. “I rack my brain as to what else goes here. No one wants to build a house on a corner of two busy streets. If it sits idle for too long and everything builds up around it, they’re going to have a better case for more density zoning, and more invasive zoning. I get concerned as a resident about what could happen in the future.”
The vote was passed with the conditions regarding lighting, burms and walls around parts of the property, hours of operation and outdoor use by tenants.