Downtown Rezoning Divides Neighborhood Residents

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Wake County

A photo of the former Seventh Day Adventist Church in 2013

City Council held a public hearing for a rezoning case in downtown Raleigh Tuesday, one which divided local residents who either viewed it as a great opportunity or a public hazard due to the sale of alcohol.

The case — Z-28-14 — concerns a .12 acre parcel on S. Person Street. The proposed rezoning was to downtown mixed use with a three story height cap.

A photo of the former Seventh Day Adventist Church in 2013

Wake County

A photo of the former Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2013

Attorney Andy Petesch represented the applicant, Phuc Tran, and gave a brief history of the site.

Since 1922, the site had been home to a Seventh-day Adventist church. They continued to use the facility until the 1980s, by which time the congregation had outgrown the facilities. After that, it had been the place of worship for other churches, but when the building was damaged by a tornado in 2011, the church was abandoned. Scheduled for demolition, Phuc Tran stepped in and repaired the church.

In a previous meeting with the planning commission, Tran had said he wanted to turn the church into a restaurant, with the sale of alcohol allowed. Before the hearing started, Petesch said that Tran wanted to defer the hearing so that additional conditions could be placed on the case.

Some Neighborhood Residents Concerned about Alcohol Sales

While the planning commission had voted 8-2 in recommending approval of the rezoning, the central citizens advisory council had voted unanimously in disapproval of the rezoning. A valid statutory protest petition had been filed as well.

Speaking at the meeting, several members of the audience said their primary concern was the selling of alcohol and that litter might become a problem because of the restaurant.

Evon Barnett, who said she lives two feet from the property line of the church, said the restaurant would lead to animals rooting through dumpsters, grease traps, and other damaging impacts. She was also worried about amplified music and outdoor seating.

“There is not enough space and that is my concern for what they want to do,” Barnett said.

Lonette Williams, the chairwoman for the central CAC, said Tran had given them inconsistent information during the October meeting and that alcohol sales were in proximity to homes and a local child care center.

Keith Powell, representing Shaw University, agreed with her. He said that the sale of alcohol “adds an unsavory element to the neighborhood.”

Others See Rezoning as Exciting Opportunity in downtown Raleigh

Phuc Tran hopes to redevelop the former church into a restaurant

City of Raleigh

Phuc Tran hopes to redevelop the former church into a restaurant

Many, however, were in support of Tran, calling him a good person who had worked hard to protect the covenants of the church. They were excited about the possibility of this downtown redevelopment, that it would increase property values and add more excitement to the area.

Nelson Bettencourt said that those who were concerned with alcohol were being disingenuous given that there were two convenience stores right up the block that already sold alcohol. He added that there was a boutique hotel already being planned that would have an upscale restaurant that would sell alcohol.

“We would like property values to go up in this area,” Bettencourt said.

After the public hearing, councilors elected to leave it open to allow time for Tran to refute the VSPP and to add additional conditions to the case.