GASTONIA The Gastonia City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a controversial new shopping center that would be anchored by Harris Teeter.
The proposed project has divided south Gastonia neighborhoods where some residents welcome the shopping center while others are opposed, saying its too big and will cause traffic problems.
Matthews-based Harris Teeter, which is being purchased by Kroger, left Gastonia in 2012 when it sold six of its stores in smaller markets to Lowes Foods.
Steve Vermillion, managing partner of MPV Real Estate in Charlotte, said a Harris Teeter will open as the 50,000-square-foot anchor of an upscale shopping center. MPV has 22 acres under contract at Robinwood and Kendrick roads.
Vermillion said the shopping center was originally going to be 120,000 square feet but has been scaled back to 104,000 square feet to address residents concerns about the size.
He said the center would be similar in design to Colony Place shopping center at Rea and Colony roads in Charlotte. The center will be traditional, all brick with fountains, a tower and outdoor seating, he said.
Gastonia lawyer Nancy Paschall, who is representing MPV, said the project is an opportunity for Gastonia to be progressive with a beautiful development.
She said the project will bring 300 to 400 new jobs.
According to Paschall, the developer has agreed to an 80-foot buffer on the back side and to road improvements to address traffic concerns.
Also, she said no incentives for the project have been offered and none asked for.
Gastonia lawyer Doug Arthurs, who represents the opposition, said a large majority living near the proposed shopping center dont want it in their neighborhood.
Theyre opposed because of the size, but primarily because of traffic.
Earl Tindol, who has lived in the Heatherloch neighborhood for 38 years, said the shopping center would be across from his residence.
But Im not as concerned about it being in my backyard as I am about it destroying an entire neighborhood, Tindol said. There are safety issues with children and schools. And traffic is horrendous right now.
He said the developers traffic study wasnt based on the realities of todays environment.
Residents dont have anything against Harris Teeter, and Tindol said there were plenty of places developers could build the project.
The shopping center proposed for the current location is just not the right thing for our community, Tindol said.
When the Gastonia Planning Commission considered a rezoning request for the shopping center on May 9, an overflow crowd turned out at City Hall.
After listening to more than three hours of debate, the commission voted 5-3 on a motion to oppose the rezoning. Without a three-quarters majority, the rezoning request went to the City Council. At the boards June meeting the rezoning was tabled until July.
Planning Commission member Tripp Hord, who voted with the majority, said that while he sees both sides of the issue, Id love to have something like this (shopping center) in Gastonia.
Gastonia Mayor John Bridgeman, who is a real estate broker, represented the owner of the property where the shopping center would go and wont take part in a vote at Tuesdays City Council meeting.
City Attorney Ash Smith said that because a valid protest petition has been submitted, the rezoning cant pass with a simple majority of the six council members. Approval would require a 5-1 vote; a 4-2 vote would deny the request.