Carrboro residents fighting Family Dollar discount store | Orange County | Indy Week
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Carrboro residents fighting Family Dollar discount store 

For decades, residents of Carrboro's historic Alabama Avenue have kept it in the family.

Anissa McLendon lives in a home once owned by her beloved grandmother. McLendon's next-door neighbor is her mother.

A few doors down, longtime resident Larry Worth lives on property once owned by his grandmother, too. Worth's family once owned much of the land making up the tightly knit community.

There are deep roots here, but as in all families, there are tensions ready to blow at the next reunion. Worth's cousins could profit by leasing a long-owned tract at the corner of Alabama Avenue and Jones Ferry Road for the construction of a Family Dollar store.

If designs for the 8,100-square-foot store ever come to fruition, the area will get a new neighbor from outside the family—but not if residents can help it.

The message is clear. Signs reading "No Family Dollar" are staked in most of the yards. Neighbors—worried over traffic, construction and declining property values should the discount store settle next door—have banded together to fill town meetings and organize protest marches. Family or not, Worth is fired up about it.

"I have no problem with a Family Dollar itself," he said. "But it doesn't belong on this street. It will destroy this little street. It's a little community and it's a big business."

McLendon, whose home sits next door to the prospective store, said the resulting traffic and potential for crime are her two biggest concerns.

"The residents are not trying to say business is not what we need in Carrboro," McLendon said. "It's just that this business is not needed for our street."

The bargain-bin chain, which is headquartered in the Mecklenburg County town of Matthews, is no oddity in North Carolina. Its discount retail stores can be found in many towns, and its low-cost goods are at a premium in today's penny-pinching times.

But Carrboro is not like every other town, and this isn't the first time such a development has drawn the ire of residents in this stubbornly quirky Orange County community. Town leaders already await redrawn plans for a controversial CVS drug store at the corner of North Greensboro and Weaver streets, construction met with loathing by many of the town's dwellers.

Family Dollar would be situated opposite a Morningstar storage facility on an undeveloped lot occupying less than an acre on Alabama Avenue. But its future lies in limbo. Last week, Raleigh-based developer Will Stronach withdrew his special-use permit application after the town Board of Adjustment rejected a necessary stream buffer variance.

As it stands now, Stronach must have a four-fifths vote from the board to approve the variance to town regulations on "ephemeral streams," defined as transitory streams created by rain. Locals say the property has such a stream, but Stronach is expected to argue the stream is merely runoff pumped from nearby businesses. Ultimately, it will be left to town planners to determine if Stronach's argument has merit.

Neither the builder nor his attorney returned phone calls from the Indy this week to comment on their plans. Town Planning Director Trish McGuire said Friday that the builder has inquired about the next steps if drainage water feeding the ephemeral stream is piped off the property.

McGuire said a second application, like the first, would face public hearings and a Board of Adjustment vote in the quasi-judicial permitting process, which requires the panel to deliberate over the project's possible impacts on transit and property values. She said the board would also have to consider if the Family Dollar development is in "harmony" with its surroundings.

Meanwhile, opponents find themselves prepping for round two. McLendon promised the community would be there to oppose once again should the Family Dollar plans return.

"You would think that it would be time to move on," McLendon said. "But you've still got that little birdie in the back. We've been through this for 365 days. I've just got a gut feeling that they're not going to go down that easy."

This article appeared in print with the headline "Families and dollars at odds."

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