Planning board, Wakelon residents say no to Zebulon hotel

mhankerson@newsobserver.comJuly 15, 2014 

Zebulon’s Planning Board recommended that no hotel be placed in the vacant land across Pearces Road from Sheetz. Residents from Wakelon Townhomes, which back up to Sheetz, said the traffic the hotel would create would be too much and would negatively impact their quality of life.

MECHELLE HANKERSON — mhankerson@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— After a short public hearing with input from Wakelon townhome residents, the Zebulon planning board recommended denial of a special use permit that would have allowed for construction of a hotel on Pearces Road.

That recommendation will go to the town’s board of commissioners, which will likely see the issue on the Aug. 4 agenda.

The proposed hotel is a project by a Raleigh-based real estate company, Skybridge Group LLC.

Skybridge is looking to place the hotel directly behind the Dash-In on Arendell Avenue and across Pearces Road from Sheetz, on one acre of land currently owned by Zebulon residents Chad and Betty Ray.

The proposed hotel would be a two-story, 40-unit hotel called Beacon Inn. It would be a ‘business motel,’ with no lounge, restaurant, conference room or other amenities, but all rooms would be accessed from the inside like higher-end hotels.

Developer Jerry Thomas was on hand at last Monday’s meeting to answer questions about the new franchise. He said his company was also looking at a site in Louisburg for a Beacon Inn.

Zebulon resident Gloria Driver wanted to know if there was an existing Beacon Inn so she could see how it functions in a town. Driver lives in Wakelon townhomes, the neighborhood across Pearces Road from the proposed hotel location and behind Sheetz.

“We’d just like to know what our neighbors are going to be like,” she said.

Thomas said he wasn’t interested in creating a hotel for extended stays and said it will be a quiet hotel, something that residents like Driver wanted to hear.

Sheetz problems impact hotel decision

Driver was one of nine residents from Wakelon townhomes who attended the public hearing to tell planning board members and commissioners why she doesn’t want the hotel.

Driver said residents have already put up with enough disruption with Sheetz backing up to the backyards of several of the neighborhood homes.

“(Sheetz) is convenient but it does adversely affect our quality of life,” she said. And with the addition of a hotel, she said traffic, one of the problems for Wakelon residents, will just get worse.

Driver said trying to get in and out of the neighborhood is difficult because of the traffic created by Sheetz. She also said the light and noise pollution from Sheetz and other development projects in the immediate area make it too bright and loud.

Tina Binder, one of Driver’s neighbors, supported Driver’s comments. She said the area gets dangerous because drivers think there is an alternative route into Sheetz, so they enter the neighborhood or make U-turns at the entrance of the neighborhood.

“(Pearces Roard) is just a little two-lane road and it just won’t handle all the traffic,” Driver said.

And Connie Sluder, another Wakelon resident, said creating more traffic and noise in the area will ultimately hurt Zebulon. Sluder, who moved from Knightdale, said her property value has decreased so much, selling again and moving is no longer an option.

“If I could sell my house tomorrow, I would leave Zebulon,” she said. “But I can’t because property values have fallen too much. I am terribly afraid of what will happen when this hotel goes up.”

No immediate solution, no hotel

Planning board members, who said they had all experienced the traffic on Pearces Road, agreed with the Wakelon residents.

For development projects that are predicted to generate at least 100 trips in peak morning or evening travel hours, the town requires a Traffic Impact Analysis. According to documents included with Skybridge’s original application, the hotel would only generate 22.8 trips in those times, so an analysis is not required.

Some members of the planning board didn’t think that was realistic.

“I have a hard time believing this is not a significant impact on (traffic),” said planning board member Kenny Waldroup, who eventually made the motion to recommend denial of the special use request. “The cumulative impact of the development out here has impacted the traffic.”

During the public hearing, Mayor Bob Matheny said ultimately, the North Carolina Department of Transportation would have to figure out the best way to handle Pearces Road and the traffic on it, although it could be a long process.

And the planning board recognized that.

Waldroup pointed out that there is a solution for the traffic complaints, but it is not immediate enough and he would prefer to wait until those issues are resolved.

“(The traffic problem) is not anybody’s fault except maybe we didn’t plan as well as we should have,” Waldroup said.

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

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