A Response to the News and Observer Article

The following is a letter written by one of our well informed residents, Mr. Tim Niles, as a follow up to the article published by the News and Observer.

Dear Mr. Campbell,

I read your article about the proposed Publix development in today’s N&O. I’d like to provide you with some additional details.

Mr. Surrency is quoted in your article as saying “This is a smaller grocery store by today’s standards”. This is quite different than the claim he made in the earlier N&O article by David Bracken (Nov 26) where he said “The tenant has several store sizes and this location would be its smallest at under 50,000 square feet.” He may have changed his wording a bit, but, neither statement qualifies as either accurate or complete. The proposed store is 49,533 sq ft. Yes, it’s technically under 50,000 sq ft. But, it’s by no means the smallest built by Publix. A quick view of their web site shows they build stores as small as 28,000 and 39,000 sq ft. It is also not small by today’s standards. It is the same size as the Harris Teeter located in Wakefield. And, the average size of a Food Lion store is 35,000 sq ft.
Mr. Surrency also mentions that the store is only intended to serve the residents located in the Falls River and Bedford communities. I can tell you that the standard customer base radius for a grocery store is 3 – 5 miles. It is not a local neighborhood store.

Mr. Surrency mentions what he feels are the potential problems with locating a store in the old Kroger location at Wakefield Commons. He says the site has access issues. The Kroger site closed down BEFORE the road widening was complete and the new bridge was added to connect Falls of Neuse Rd to New Falls of Neuse Rd. It is now a straight shot up a newly widened corridor to get to Wakefield Commons. Mr. Surrency also fails to mention that, as a property developer, there is no money to be made for Morgan Property Group by remodeling an existing building, revitalizing an existing shopping center and being a good corporate citizen.

The City of Raleigh has an approved 2030 Comprehensive Plan which addresses the Falls of Neuse Corridor by name in its Urban Design section with ACTION UD 1.2 which states:

“Maintain and protect the character of the Falls of Neuse Corridor adjacent to the Falls Lake Watershed north of Durant Rd by preserving the extensive roadside vegetation, the Falls Lake Dam and Falls Community”.

As a member of the Falls Community myself, I don’t see how the city officials can approve a rezoning request for the proposed development without turning their backs on the commitment they made in the long range plan. And, if they do abandon that commitment, why should any other resident of any other area of the city believe anything else that is written in the comprehensive plan?

Show me the overwhelming need for another grocery store which would override the commitment made in the comprehensive plan! Show me the overwhelming benefit that would be brought to the area when the residents have said they do not want it! Other than maximizing the profit for the developer and the land owner(s), what’s in it for the local residents?

This land in question is currently zoned R4 for residential, small retail and small offices. All the home owners knew this when they bought their homes. This is not a case of someone buying a home by the airport and then complaining about the noise. The local residents approve of the land being developed under the current zoning which is appropriate for the area. At the same time, the owner(s) of this land also knew what the zoning restrictions were when they made their investments in this property. The city has no responsibility to ensure the land owner(s) made a wise investment when they bought the property and can now maximize their profit by changing the rules to allow this development.

The City does have a responsibility to its citizens to keep the promises it made in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The local residents want to do just that and to maintain and protect the character of the Falls of Neuse Corridor. We want to keep it “Falls of Neuse” and not let it deteriorate into “Strip Malls of Neuse”.

Tim Niles

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