Rezoning for real estate business shot down in Walkertown

Photo by Tevin Stinson

Rezoning for real estate business shot down in Walkertown
November 09
05:00 2017

When Tony and Pamela Robinson purchased property located at 2575 Martin St. in Walkertown, they thought it was the perfect place to open their real estate business. 

The Robinsons felt even more confident after getting work done on the property and speaking with neighbors. After the Forsyth County Planning and Development Committee approved the plans for the business, the Robinsons thought their dream of opening the first real estate business in the town of Walkertown would soon be reality, but all that changed in a blink of an eye, according to the couple, who has lived in Forsyth County for more than 10 years. 

Here’s what we know: To operate a real estate office at the location in question, Robinson applied for a rezoning permit known as “neighborhood office.” The zoning classification summary on the City-County Planning Board website says neighborhood office or NO District is intended to accommodate very low intensity office uses within converted single-family detached units. The district is intended to be located on the periphery of established residential areas, along major and minor thoroughfares.

According to Robinson, the property met all the criteria for the rezoning permit. The Robinsons also had a petition of support from more than 100 people within a 500-foot radius of the property. 

“When we bought the property, they told us to go out in the community to make sure we had the support of the neighborhood, so we sent letters to everyone within a 500-foot radius of this property and we didn’t hear any complaints. I personally went to every house on the street directly across from the property and no one had any issues with what was happening.” Mr. Robinson said. 

Shortly after submitting the application and the $1,000 non-refundable fee for the rezoning request, Mr. Robinson said he started hearing about overwhelming opposition to the rezoning. He said he received a call from Gary Roberts with the planning department. 

“He [Roberts] said the city manager had received a lot of calls from people in the community opposing your request and that doesn’t look good,” said Robinson. “I told him that we weren’t meeting any opposition. In fact, everybody who had seen it was coming over complimenting us. It just didn’t make sense.” 

While standing at the property earlier this week, Robinson said the first complaint he received from the town manager was traffic. In response, Robinson did his own independent traffic study to prove traffic wouldn’t be an issue. He also assured the town manager that on average there will only be one or two cars at the office because most of the work is done online. 

“We have an office space that may have one to three visitors, so we dealt with the traffic issue. So what’s the next obstacle?” Robinson said. 

The next obstacle Robinson faced came from a member of the Walkertown Town Council, Marilyn Martin. Robinson said he was told that Martin’s family once owned the land. Martin currently lives on Martin Street but outside of the 500-foot radius mentioned earlier. 

He said, “We have one influential council member that had great influence with the mayor and other council members. It seems to us she wants control over what happens over here because her family owned land here and sold it. That has to be the reason because this doesn’t impact her.”

Although they continued to meet obstacles, the Robinsons pushed forward with the rezoning petition and waited on the town council’s decision.

Even after the Walkertown Planning Board unanimously passed the rezoning of the property, despite getting praise from all the neighbors for what they were doing, approval from the county and town planning boards, and the pastor of Morris Chapel United Methodist Church, which stands less than half a mile from the property, the Walkertown Town Council voted “No.”

In the end, the Robinsons believe they were railroaded by one individual on the town council, who just so happens to live on the street  that carries her last name. During a private meeting with Mayor Kenneth Davis less than 24-hours after the town council unanimously decided to deny the request for rezoning, Robinson said he believed his skin color had something to do with the decision. Davis denies Robinson’s skin color had anything to do with the council’s decision.

Although their initial push to open the town’s first real estate business was shot down, the Robinsons haven’t given up hope. They have opened their business at a smaller location in Walkertown but plan to still fight for 2575 Martin St. The Robinsons have hired a lawyer to handle the case.

When discussing their quarrel with the Walkertown City Council, Pamela Robinson said she now understands the importance of voting, even during the smaller elections many think are less important.

“I always vote during the bigger elections but I usually pass on the small local elections. After this, that will be a mistake I will never make again. The interesting thing is those town council members always run unopposed,” she continued. “So for me this was about how important it is that we vote because we’re just letting people get on there and make decisions for us.”

Earlier this week when the citizens of Walkertown voted during the 2017 Municipal Elections, only two names appeared on the ballot. Incumbent council members Sarah Welch and Margaret “Peggy” Leight ran unopposed. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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