Sep. 8—PEMBROKE — Residents could take legal action against the Town of Pembroke after the governing council unanimously approved on Tuesday rezoning the last parcel of land needed to secure a potential $4 million developmental investment.
Council members voted 3-0 to approve the rezoning of a vacant lot on Lowery Street from a R-20 Residential District to C-3 Highway Business District.
A related request was approved during a June 28 meeting to rezone residential properties at 807, 809 and 811 W. Third St. to commercial districts, but the Lowery Street rezoning decision was placed on hold awaiting a recommendation from the town's Planning Board, then again after the request was not properly advertised to affected residents.
The owners of the four parcels would like to sell their lots as commercial properties to franchises Inspire Brands and Break Bread Ventures, who are looking to build a Slim Chickens and a Dunkin Donuts in the area. Both franchises are proposing to develop 807, 809, and 811 W. Third St. for the eateries.
The plan is to use the vacant lot for parking and as an entrance/exit for the proposed West Third Street development. The three residential properties are to the west of a McDonald's restaurant and the vacant lot is to the rear, where a residential neighborhood is located.
Councilman Channing Jones recused himself from discussing or voting on the matter after a resident pointed out a potential conflict of interest. Jones said he discussed the matter with the town attorney before the meeting. The attorney determined there was no conflict because Jones did not stand to gain personally of financially.
"I'm still happy to recuse myself," Jones said.
Plans for the vacant lot have been a sore topic for neighboring residents for the past few months, and it was no different Tuesday when several spoke against the rezoning and even threatened a lawsuit during the public hearing on the matter that lasted more than an hour.
"I know my way around a courthouse," said Gary Locklear, a resident of Gary Locklear Road which adjoins Lowery Street and former attorney for the Town of Pembroke. "It's what I do, and I know you've got flaws in what you've done, and if you go ahead and rezone this property then you'll leave no option for the people on Lowery Street, Gary Locklear Drive and Riley Lane but to appeal the matter and it'll tie up all of it for a considerable amount of time.
"The developer, he won't be building for a little while."
Locklear showed council members a petition signed by 26 neighboring residents who oppose the rezoning.
"I feel like I'm having to beg for something that's rightfully mine and what that is is the right to live peacefully and safely in the home that I bought thinking that's what it would be," said Linda Oxendine, a Lowery Street resident.
There are more than 26 residents in the town of Pembroke, and the town must consider the growth, Councilman Larry Jones said.
Council member Teresa Locklear said that when Strickland Heights and a trailer park were built near a property she owned in town, she was forced to sell her land to make room for growth and had to "live with it."
"It had to be done, and I'm not saying that to be disrespectful to anyone, but I sympathize with you," she said.
Councilman Ryan Sampson, who one lived on the street for six years, said traffic in the area has been an issue since the 1990s.
"We are a town that's looking at growth and we are a town that's helping our citizens out as we go," Sampson said.
In other business, Council learned construction on the splash pad at the Recreation Complex is back on track after being stalled for weeks.
Kevin Mullins, project manager for Great Southern Recreation, told council members that testing and training for the equipment will begin Friday. He also apologized for the delay caused by a labor shortage, equipment delays and a permitting issue.
Sampson told Mullins potential revenue this summer was lost because of the delay. The project was projected to be completed by May 31.
"This has been a big delay," Sampson said. "We held you by that standard."
Phil Harper, town Recreation director, said he sees the splash pad being open by the end of the month to market for the next summer season.
Also on Tuesday, Council:
— Approved resolutions to apply for Community Development Block Grant funding, Program Clean Water state revolving funding, and re-adopted the 2018 Capital Improvement Plan, all to improve the town's sewer infrastructure.
— Approved an amendment to Article 15, Section 5 of the town's Personnel Policy adding language on GPS monitoring device procedures. The addition reads in part: "The assigned employee of each vehicle is responsible for providing possible maintenance requirements to his/her supervisor."
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.