Planning Commission Roundup: Another McDonald’s Comes to Food Desert

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An area of Raleigh considered a food desert is getting a new fast food restaurant.

Planning Commission members this week agreed to amend existing zoning conditions to allow a fast food restaurant with drive-thru services to be constructed on the 3-acre property at the corner of Milburnie Road and New Bern Avenue.

Restaurants with drive-thru services were prohibited and are generally discouraged in pedestrian-friendly areas. This type of use will now be allowed and it is likely that a McDonald’s will be built.

The area is considered a food desert, meaning fresh food is not easily available to residents.

“East Raleigh has got strictly fast food restaurants,” said resident Sue Brenzel, who spoke out against the change. “We’ve lost our grocery stores and we’re in dire straits. We need to make sure that what we place on the properties in our neighborhood truly belong there.”

Commissioners focused on pedestrian access to the future restaurant.

New Bern Avenue is slated as city’s top priority for a major transportation overhaul, which would increase bus frequency and pedestrian and bicycle use. The plan aims to improve crosswalks and create a complete sidewalk network on New Bern Avenue.

Deputy Planning Director Ken Bowers pointed out that current code requires pedestrian access to any building that is safe, convenient, and direct. Because restaurants with drive-thru services require 360-degree circulation around the building, Commissioners were concerned about the effect such a restaurant would have on pedestrian access and safety in the area.

Lacy Reaves, an attorney for the applicant, says there are plans to build steps from New Bern Avenue to allow people to walk to the restaurant. Due to the topography of the property, he was unable to commit to placing the drive-thru in the back of the building, another condition that can help improve pedestrian access.

Venita Peyton, a local realtor and the former chairperson of the East Citizens Advisory Council, criticized the potential impact on traffic flow and the increased risk of vehicle accidents.

The proposed plans were presented to the East Citizens Advisory Council and WakeMed hospital, a neighbor of the property. Reaves said they did not receive any negative feedback from those presentations.

Rezoning of Thornton Road Property Delayed
A rezoning that would change a 17- acre piece of land from a residential district to a thoroughfare district had Commission members feeling apprehensive.

Commissioners delayed a vote on the rezoning of the property located on Thornton Road within the Neuse River floodplain to give the applicant time to tighten up his conditions and better align them with the preliminary site plan.

The applicant plans to use the property for a concrete finishing business with a modular unit, overnight storage and a maintenance facility on site, according to representative Kirk Rightmyer.

The placement of the items on the preliminary site plan was a cause for concern for Commissioners John Buxton and Adam Terando, who cited the property’s location in the Neuse River floodplain.

Commissioner Isabel Mattox said she is generally in favor of the application, but questioned the lack of specifics on the rezoning request. While the preliminary site plan shows the intended use for the property, “I’d like the conditions to better match up with this drawing,” she said. “Not to say that you can’t have any latitude, but I’d like to feel that what we see is what we’re going to get.”

The property’s proximity to the Capital Area Greenway system also came up. While the greenway sits inside a 150-foot buffer, some felt the concrete finishing business would be visible from the greenway and create a significant amount of noise and dust for users. However, creating a 100-foot-buffer in addition to the 150-foot greenway buffer would cut into the applicant’s storage facility.

The Commission voted to defer the issue to give Rightmyer and the applicant time to possibly reconfigure the preliminary site plan so more items are out of the floodplain.

Family Dollar Coming to Mitchell Mill Road
Family Dollar will be constructing a new store on Mitchell Mill Road. Commission members approved the construction of an 8,320-square-foot store on the south side of Mitchell Mill Road, east of the intersection of Forestville Road.

The store will be located within 400 feet of a residential area. While the proposal was not presented to the Northeast Citizens Advisory Council, negative feedback from area residents appears to be low.

Matt Lowder of Triangle Site Design, the civil engineer for the project, said Family Dollar has worked closely with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to widen Mitchell Mill Road, providing turn lanes and extending the sidewalk to connect with Taylor Oaks Road.

Family Dollar plans to establish a 30-foot-wide transitional protective yard on two sides of the property, as well as construct a 6-foot fence to minimize the impact on area residences. They also plan to install bicycle racks near the entrance to the building, and sidewalk access to the building from Mitchell Mill Road.

Leesville Road School Driveway Renamed Pride Way
The private driveway on the campus of the Leesville Road Schools that runs between Oneal Road and Country Trail will now be called Pride Way. This change goes into effect July 1.

Wake County Public Schools requested the street be named due to safety concerns.

The addresses for Leesville Road Elementary School, Leesville Road Middle School, and Leesville Road High School will be changing to Pride Way as a result of this street naming.

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