Rezoning request approved by Oakboro Town Council could pave way for fast food restaurant

A decision made by the Oakboro Town Council at Monday’s council meeting may pave the way for a new fast-food restaurant.

The town council conducted a public hearing before Monday’s regular meeting to receive input regarding a rezoning request. The request was for property on 821 N. Main St., owned by Terry Hinson of Jacksonville.

Joe Millikan, the CEO of Randolph Restaurant Group, spoke in the hearing in favor of the request. His group owns eight Bojangles franchises, including the Norwood location.

After the meeting, Millikan said before purchasing the property it had to be rezoned to business, as well as be divided up.

He said Bojangles has given approval on a corporate level to move forward with the new restaurant.

The process, including testing the soil, will take until March 2022 at the earliest before construction would begin. The store might be open around next July.

“When we go to communities, we try to get ourselves involved in the community…we become a local business. We love towns like (Oakboro),” Millikan said. “We love small towns. We support baseball teams with (local) parks and recreation…we try to help out and be part of the town.”

Three Oakboro citizens (Carolyn Coffey, Cuffie Furr and Rodney Hartsell) spoke against the request.

Coffey said she lived so close to the property of the proposed restaurant she would be able to hear the drive-through’s loudspeaker.

“I don’t want to see (Oakboro) lose that small-town flavor,” Coffey said in the hearing.

Furr expressed concerns about his adjoining property going down in value, while Hartsell asked town commissioners how they would feel if they lived 100 feet away diagonally from the proposed restaurant.

In the meeting, Commissioner Mike Efird moved to approve a statement of consistency and reasonableness regarding the request. Such a statement is required for any rezoning change. The motion passed unanimously, 5-0.

Efird then moved to have the request approved, noting for commissioners “the only thing we’re voting on here is the rezoning of the property. You can not consider… (for) what the property is going to be used. You can’t even consider it.”

According to the town’s ordinances, when the council considers a position for a zoning change, it “will not evaluate a petition based on any specific proposal for the use or development of the property.”

Commissioner Chris Huneycutt seconded the motion which passed 4-1, the lone no vote coming from Commissioner Bud Smith.

Smith said he went with his instincts, adding he wanted to look at the human element in it. The commissioner said he was not opposed to a Bojangles in town but maybe in a better location “that would be more conducive to that restaurant.”

The consistency statement said in part the request is “consistent with the adopted 2002 Comprehensive Land Use Plan.” The statement further said the request fits under the economic development section of the plan because “it is a goal to proactively recruit business with an emphasis on small companies that will enhance the current quality of life.”

According to the statement, the zoning change would qualify as smart growth and sustained development as it avoids “excessive lengths of commercial strip development.”

The statement also mentioned the new Charlotte Pipe and Foundry plant, saying the change will “benefit workers at the plant as well as the surrounding community.” The new plant was also mentioned in the plan saying its construction “warrants the construction of new service business, as permitted in the Highway Business district.”