With Mayor Mike Inscore casting a rare tie-breaking vote, the Wilkesboro Town Council on Monday night denied a request for rezoning three parcels for sale on Main Street from general business to general residential.
Junior Goforth, who is a North Wilkesboro commissioner, said he had agreed to buy the three parcels–at 607, 609 and 611 Main Street–from John and Linda Myers of Wilkesboro if the rezoning was approved. He requested the rezoning.
Each parcel is about a quarter of an acre and built on each is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house. Goforth said he planned to renovate the structures—starting with 611 Main Street and moving eastward—as single-family houses and rent them for $700-$900 a month to attract what he called “high-quality renters.”
The three houses, between Perry’s Service Center and Wilkesboro Drive-In Cleaners and Shirt Laundry, have identical footprints and originally were residences. All three parcels were later rezoned to their current classification to allow businesses.
Jim Isley, listing Realtor for the parcels, said during a public hearing on the rezoning request that Goforth planned to “put nice homes in there” that would increase property values. He said the properties have been on the market at least 13 years.
Three citizens voiced opposition to the rezoning during the public hearing.
Alex Turner, representing D.E. Turner Oil Co. in North Wilkesboro, said his family owns property across the street from the homes. “We’re concerned about the element of rental property. If you’ve ever had a bad neighbor or renter, it’s a nightmare. If we change the zoning, we’re opening the door for ‘anything goes’ down the road. I don’t think we can put bars up on the windows fast enough to offset what comes with this.”
Karon Eller, owner of Wilkesboro Drive-In Cleaners and Shirt Laundry, said she shared Turner’s concerns. Eller said Carolyn Brookshire-Pardue of Carolina Realty and other business owners told her they were concerned about business property values declining if the residential zoning was approved.
Keith Reid of Woodland Boulevard said, “Hopefully Mr. Goforth is being straightforward with us, but you never know what comes down in the end, and the neighbors are concerned for the same reasons. Also, there’s no place for children to play there. It’s a very busy intersection and street.” Reid is the Wilkesboro Fire Department’s deputy chief.
The Wilkesboro Planning Board on May 28 voted to recommend council approval of the rezoning request, stating that the application was consistent with town policies and plans for a mixed-use district. This included the town’s 2008 comprehensive use plan.
Council members Russ Ferree and Nellie Archibald agreed with the planning board and voted in favor of the rezoning. Council members Gary Johnson and Jimmy Hayes voted against the requested rezoning.
Archibald said she thought Goforth would rehab the buildings well. “They’ve been sitting idle all this time. Let’s make some use of them.”
Ferree said, “People who are afraid to see any change are looking at it only from a standpoint of fear. I do not believe you have anything to fear. I do believe this is something that will increase the quality of life in Wilkesboro.”
Johnson stated, “I do not think it’s suitable to place residences in the center of an industrial area. I’m opposed to it simply because I don’t think it fits the plan of what we envision our town growing into.”
Hayes added, “I’ve got to vote my heart, and just like Mr. Johnson said, I just don’t think that’s the direction of where we need to go.” He said owners of Perry’s Service Center told him they “had a deep concern for children’s safety, plus they don’t want vehicles left on their site vandalized.”
Inscore said Carolyn Frazier-Pardue was unable to attend the meeting, but called him earlier in the day to express her concerns about the rezoning request.
“She was very adamant that the town council oppose this tonight. She said if the sale went through she probably would vacate her building (Carolina Realty) and do the same thing,” said Inscore, implying that Frazier-Pardue meant she would have it rezoned for residential. “I told her I would be her voice in her absence.”
As mayor, Inscore only votes if there is a tie and the last time this occurred was on Feb. 2, 2018, when his deciding vote resulted in the council not allowing beer and wine sales to start earlier on Sundays.
Inscore said he believed Goforth’s intentions were sincere but added, “I’m going to concur with the property owners who feel like this is not a good decision and side with them in turning down the request.”
Goforth then asked the council, “Two years from now, if those houses are still sitting empty, can I go through this process again?”
Inscore quickly answered, “Absolutely. I would love nothing better than you to come back.”
Goforth added, “I know it’s nothing personal. I’m a politician also, and I’ve got thick skin. I understand y’all’s concerns. Thank you.”