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Church protests plans for Costco-anchored retail center

Cars fill the parking lot of a Costco store in Seattle. A Catholic church with 2,600 Sunday worshipers is protesting plans for a nearby Costco-anchored retail center off Interstate 77 Exit 35 in Mooresville.
Cars fill the parking lot of a Costco store in Seattle. A Catholic church with 2,600 Sunday worshipers is protesting plans for a nearby Costco-anchored retail center off Interstate 77 Exit 35 in Mooresville. AP

A Catholic church with 2,600 Sunday worshippers is protesting plans for a nearby Costco-anchored retail center off Interstate 77, Exit 35, in Mooresville.

The project would devastate the middle-class communities along Talbert Road near the site, Father Vince Curtin, pastor of St. Therese Catholic Church, said in a letter to Mayor Miles Atkins and the Mooresville Board of Commissioners.

“I believe if this shopping center is built there, the neighborhood of homes on Talbert Road will dwindle to a shadow of itself because it will be boxed in on the Talbert side by Costco and in a few years on the Brawley School (Road) side by a four-lane divided road,” Curtin wrote. “This decline would be tragic for the middle-class families who live there.”

The commissioners on Monday are scheduled to hold a public hearing and then vote on a rezoning needed by the proposed 41-acre Brawley Crossing retail center. Academy Sports + Outdoors would be the center’s second, smaller anchor. The site also would include six outparcels for restaurants and other retailers.

Curtin said the project would violate a prohibition against “large box” retailers in the town’s Brawley School Small Area Plan.

“That report rightly puts emphasis on preserving the residential nature of the Talbert Road area where about 750 people live,” Curtin wrote. “The fact that the proposed shopping center would have entrances and exits only on Talbert Road makes such a violation of the norm even more threatening to the future of the neighborhood.”

No ordinance, however, prohibits big box retail at the exit, Town Manager Erskine Smith said Tuesday.

The 2009 Brawley School Small Area Plan did say highway-oriented retail uses associated with the N.C. 150 corridor a mile to the north should be prohibited, Smith said.

But commissioners amended the plan in 2010 because of Exit 35’s construction to say such uses “should be prohibited within the study area or limited to Exit 35.”

“The confusion has arisen because the Brawley School Small Area Plan on the (town’s) website was the original plan and NOT the updated plan for 2010,” Smith wrote in an email to the Observer.

“The intent of the town has all along been to limit the intensity of development along Brawley School from Williamson Road to U.S. 21. However, it did leave the door open for larger, more intense development at the intersection of Williamson and Brawley or Exit 35,” Smith said.

Curtin also said a traffic study presented by project consultants to the Mooresville Planning Board in February offered only the off-peak hours of 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday.

“Check out that intersection during rush hour from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday and Friday and you will see already traffic jams at Brawley School Road and Talbert Road,” Curtin wrote. “Come Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., when over a thousand cars are coming through that intersection from all four directions to attend services at St. Therese, so you can see what potential traffic tie-ups shoppers to Costco would add to the mix.”

The Planning Board voted 5-3 to recommend the 41 acres be rezoned. A majority sided with town planning staff, who said the town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Brawley School Road Small Area Plan indicate the land is more suited for retail and commercial businesses because it’s so close to the interstate.

Members of St. Therese – the fourth largest church in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte – also expressed concerns to him about the sale of guns at the Academy Sports + Outdoors, Curtin wrote. The store would be less than 1,000 yards from the church, which is on Brawley School Road just east of Talbert.

Curtin said St. Therese has been in Mooresville since its founding in 1946 by members of the Mack family on North Main Street. The church moved to its current site in 1988. Last year, it dedicated a 1,200-seat sanctuary.

“The problems the proposed Costco shopping center would create would also hamper very much the church’s well respected mission to the Mooresville community, and thereby would be going against the (Brawley School Road Small Area Plan’s) recommendation to preserve uses such as churches along the Brawley School Road corridor,” Curtin wrote.

A Costco spokeswoman said Tuesday the company does not comment on specific locations.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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