Rezoning of Oaks Road parcel rejected

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This property, surrounded by homes, will remain zoned only for residential use, despite an attempt to establish a ‘smoke shop’ there. (Photo credit: Zack Aydelette)

 

Barbara Best

NEW BERN – The seven-member board of New Bern Aldermen unanimously rejected an application to grant commercial zoning for 2409 Oaks Road after a brief public hearing Tuesday night in which a citizen, who lives close to the site, complained that a proposed “smoke shop lends itself to a criminal element.”

The property owner, Nasr Algaradi, already owns two nearby convenience stores – one at 1509 National Avenue and another just down the street at 3419 Oaks Road.


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Algaradi’s son — representing his father who apparently does not speak English – attempted to answer a series of rapid-fire questions from Barbara Best, the town’s elected official from Ward 5 where the property is located.

Best had clearly done her homework. She got quick confirmation from the younger man that both of his father’s existing stores now sell tobacco and related products. “And, if we approve this rezoning, there will be three (stores) in that small area, isn’t that right?”

The site was once a convenience store, but has been idle for a number of years. Because of that, the property lost its ‘grandfathered’ status to operate in a part of town where all of the neighboring properties are zoned for residential use.

“That was once the ‘country’ to New Bern back in the day,” explained Alderwoman Sabrina Bengel. “And, in recent years, Oaks Road has really gotten beaten up.”

Other elected officials signaled they too were clearly poised to reject any type of rezoning – this despite the fact that the city’s appointed advisory board that reviews rezonings had overwhelmingly recommended approval.

Alderwoman Jamey Harris remarked “I do not consider this to be the highest and best use of that property.”

Alderman Jeff Odham, usually a strong proponent for all types of viable startups, agreed. He suggested “our zoning should be whatever the vision is for that area. I just don’t think that Oaks Road is set up to be a viable commercial corridor.”

To reject the rezoning application required two votes. The first was a Statement of Zoning Inconsistency – approved unanimously. The second, also approved without objection, was a vote to nix any type of rezoning.

The result? The former store – despite a fresh red-and-white paint job – can only be used as a residence. It certainly promises to be one funky house for whomever ends up there.