GREENSBORO — What seemed like a simple rezoning request for apartments and a convenience store on South Elm-Eugene Street kicked off an impassioned discussion Tuesday about the quality of growth in the southeast part of the city.
In the end, the City Council voted 5-4 to deny the project.
The project’s potential impact on single-family neighborhoods nearby and the message it sends about development in the lower-income parts of Greensboro became the issue with Councilwomen Sharon Hightower, Goldie Wells and Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson.
And although only four residents spoke against the rezoning, council members broke down the particulars during the bulk of the one-hour rezoning case.
Hightower argued that a convenience store doesn’t send the right message about good nutrition. Likewise, an apartment complex doesn’t encourage home ownership.
Those two things, she said, aren’t common in other parts of the city and should be discouraged.
“Economic justice is what we want,” Hightower said. “We want the same standards that are across town. This is not the best use of the land. We’ve got to start connecting our communities, and they do it across town.”
Wells was also adamant that the proposed development could have a negative impact on people who live nearby, adding that the area has no shortage of convenience stores.
“We don’t want just anything — we want to promote home ownership,” Wells said. “As African Americans, we know we’ve been redlined for years and years. We want the best and we say we want things in southeast Greensboro, but we’re not just asking to dump anything.”
Other council members expressed support for the rezoning.
Councilwoman Tammi Thurm said that regions of the city grow in stages and that upscale stores like The Fresh Market don’t open until neighborhood populations grow. And even then, she said, convenience stores often locate near supermarkets with more high-quality foods.
“I think this is a viable model I think works for that area,” Thurm said.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan also supported the project, saying the apartments will provide more housing for a city that badly needs it.
The land, which is zoned for single-family homes, needs to remain that way, Councilman Hugh Holston said. Holston, who was just sworn in Tuesday as a member of the board, also opposed this project when he was chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.