When the vacant house at 12700 Providence Road falls to bulldozers in the spring, it will mark a new era for this Union County town.
For the first time, a business will be across the street from Weddington Corners Shopping Center, which until Nov. 13 was the only parcel in town zoned for business.
Whether that’s good or bad thing depends on your perspective. A recent public hearing reflected strong feelings on both sides.
Still, many Weddington residents may not know about the changes that could impact the Providence Road/N.C. 84 intersection. Judging from a very unscientific sample (conducted at a holiday get-together), a lot of the town’s residents haven’t yet heard that a 15,000-square-foot office building will be built on the five acres sandwiched between Weddington United Methodist Church and The Hunter Farm.
On Nov. 13, the Weddington town council approved mixed-use zoning to allow the headquarters of Polivka International on that parcel. It is now the only parcel in Weddington with mixed-use zoning.
Polivka International Vice President John Temple said in a recent telephone interview that he expects all plans for the building to be completed “in the next 60 days” and submitted to the town’s planning board for approval.
The building will be “all brick, two stories, with a southern colonial look” and will cost “several million dollars,” he said.
The upstairs will be used by Polivka International for corporate offices, and the downstairs offices will be leased, possibly for medical offices. The company specializes in railroad infrastructure and industrial site development, and is currently based in Warren, Ohio.
Construction should begin in the spring, with completion in nine or 10 months, Temple said.
Asked why Polivka International selected the Weddington site for its headquarters, Temple said, “I know when Mr. Polivka moved to the Weddington area, he just liked that hill…I know that the Polivka family is very excited about this opportunity, and they look forward to working with the community and being part of the community in Weddington.”
After the land was purchased in 2005, the company conducted a survey to find out what kind of services or amenities residents might like for the location. Weddington officials also do periodic surveys to see what town residents want.
“What we found is that our survey did not align with the survey of the town, which said something entirely different,” he said. “When we failed the first time, we went back to our original vision.”
Another problem with the original plan was that a sewer line to serve the location would have been routed across The Hunter Farm, the family business operated by then-Mayor Nancy Anderson, to a sewer connection in the High Gate community. The new, approved plan eliminates that scenario with a septic tank, and also includes a retention pond for storm water.
Temple said the company hired an arborist to address concerns that construction might threaten a heritage tree, but the arborist found that the tree had some exposed roots and had about 10 more years.
Former Mayor Nancy Anderson questioned those findings.
“They don’t want to save the trees,” she said. “I get it. They just don’t care.”
She is concerned about the impact the construction and the building might have on her family’s farm and the future of Weddington. She proposed at the public hearing that the company move its building site toward Providence Road to increase the buffer between adjoining properties.
She also wondered why the North Carolina Department of Transportation approved a left turn into the property for drivers headed north on Providence Road. Visitors to The Hunter Farm – which offers pick-your-own strawberries, educational activities for school groups and other activities – must enter and exit via the southbound lane by making right turns.
“It seems like now the rules have changed,” she said. “Why is this being allowed now when it wasn’t being allowed before?”
Anderson predicts that in 10 years a drug store with a drive-thru will be at that site.
“The only thing that can save us now is a public outcry,” she said.
“When that first bulldozer shows up and levels that place, people will be furious,” she said. “Mark my words.”
Asked about adding more phases in the future, Temple said, “There’s no plan for that at this time. We’re just trying to get our office building built. We’ve done everything we’ve been asked to do.”
He also said the company is willing to talk directly to Anderson, “to listen to her, to work with her.”
He said he knew there would be people who object to plans for the property.
“I think everyone has a right to speak their opinion,” he said. “That’s what makes this country so great. At the end of the day, we have to respect each other, no matter what the outcome is.”