Street name change frustrates Knightdale business owner

mhankerson@newsobserver.comFebruary 25, 2014 

— A local business owner asked Town Council to reconsider the recent renaming of Tae Kwon Do Drive to honor an informal agreement he said was made between him and town staff.

Jun Lee, a former Knightdale mayoral candidate who lost to Mayor Russell Killen in 2011, said he donated land for the town’s use under the condition that the name Tae Kwon Do Drive would not change.

In early November, another local martial arts business owner, Nathan Ray, approached town council to suggest renaming the street to be more in line with the town’s growth and the diversity it created.

“(It would be good) for the future of that area ... (to) have names applicable to everyone,” Ray told the Council. Ray’s business is located off Malaby’s Church Drive (the former Tae Kwon Do Drive), near Lee’s Black Belt World.

Council discussed options and decided to name the road after Malaby’s Church, located on Old Knight Road. The name was suggested by former councilman Jeff Eddins.

According to Lee, he made an informal agreement with Town Manager Seth Lawless and senior planner Jennifer Currin that the name would remain the same if he donated the land. He said they agreed to it so he donated the land to the development company.

Lee said the name agreement was not part of the written contract.

Lawless said there was never an agreement between Lee and the town about the name change.

The land was developed and then donated to the town in the summer of 2013, making it public property. From there, naming and renaming power rests with the council.

Giving land an identity

Knightdale’s ordinance says that the town should try to retain road names when possible. If there’s been an error in naming streets, the ordinance says the council should look to change the name, but otherwise, efforts should be made to keep road names the same.

Lee told Council that Tae Kwon Do Drive was one detail that helped keep his business afloat. According to Lee, it was the only Tae Kwon Do Drive in the world.

He picked the name in 2007 when he acquired four acres of land to bring his business to Knightdale. Along with the land came the right to the name the street.

“I had the opportunity to give this piece of land an identity,” he said.

In 2012, developers of Laurel Crossing, the new apartment complex off Smithfield Road, needed more land to complete the project. Lee agreed to donate the land, including the street itself, which at that time was a privately owned street.

Once developers completed the apartment complex and made improvements to Tae Kwon Do Drive, they donated the street to the town, a common practice in the development process.

Lee, who said he supports the town’s development, wanted to help but he wanted to retain the street’s name. It’s been helpful in getting the business noticed and bringing special guests to his business, he said.

The Council did not discuss Lee’s suggestion.

“If someone on the council wanted to bring it up, we would talk about it but I doubt we would,” Killen said. “The road shouldn't have been named Tae Kwon Do Drive in the first place. Naming it after a longstanding African-American church is more fitting for the town.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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