Highway 68 shopping center receives approval

by Jordan Green

The commercial and residential future of the NC Highway 68 corridor near the new GTCC aviation campus took shape on Sept. 10 when the Guilford Planning Board unanimously approved a request by a group of anonymous investors. The decision rezones 51 acres from allow a shopping center and housing development to be built on what is presently a combination of woodland and pasture.

The request was opposed by about a dozen neighboring residents who lamented that the rural character of their community would be lost, and that they were being out-maneuvered by powerful developers with the deep pockets to secure expensive legal help. “This feels a lot like land speculation,” said Mary Fabrizio, an opponent from nearby Colfax. “It stinks because two of the investors are sitting on the Greensboro City Council.” At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins and District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny have abstained from a city council vote on the project because of conflicts of interest. Derek Allen, the lawyer with Brooks Pierce law firm who argued the case before the planning board, said that the two councilmen “had interest in groups that had interest in that property.” The limited liability company interested in developing the property, which is currently owned by WA Kennedy Jr., was organized in June by Jennifer C. Noble, a lawyer with Brooks Pierce. The company’s registered agent is Stanhope Johnson, a partner with NAI Piedmont Triad, a commercial real estate company headed by Perkins. The landscape of the Highway 68 corridor between Piedmont Triad International Airport to the south and the town of Oak Ridge to the north is being transformed by two related developments. One is the new Interstate 73, which is eventually expected to shoulder northbound freight from the new FedEx sorting hub when it opens next year. The other is GTCC, an increasingly important player in the county’s job training and economic development matrix. The community college is expected to open a new aviation campus on NC Highway 68 by 2010. The planned campus is located on the north side of Leabourne Road, a gently curving two-lane thoroughfare leading towards a therapeutic horse riding center and a cluster of sparsely

populated residential neighborhoods. The future campus and shopping center lie northwest of the future interstate, which will cut a diagonal path from Highway 68 northeast to US Highway 220, connecting Greensboro to Roanoke, Va. to the north and Asheboro to the south, and ultimately stringing together Detroit and Myrtle Beach, SC. A southbound exit ramp from the future interstate sketched onto a preliminary plan released by the NC Department of Transportation in early August lands right on the proposed shopping center’s doorstep. “The biggest driver is the alignment of the road,” Allen said. “The exit ramp could be anywhere from Leabourne to twelve hundred feet south.” He added that changing the zoning “helps with the NC DOT because you don’t want them to change their plans.” Property owner Johnny O. Pitts

withdrew arequest to rezone 66 acres near the Leabourne Road development fromagricultural to mixed-use commercial, office and residential. Thedecision came after NC Department of Transportation disclosed that anew alignment of the planned interstate had the roadway passing overthe property, Deputy Planning Director Les Eger said. Allensaid the investor group has no specific stores or architecturalconfiguration in mind for the property at this time, noting that “thereare no footprints, just pods.” One of the sections covering 24 acreswould contain a shopping center; a second 27-acre plot would contain upto 482 acres of housing with the stipulation that buildings reach nohigher than three stories. The developers agreed to a handful ofconditions: prohibitions against sexuallyoriented businesses,nightclubs and freestanding bars, and a restriction to keep drive-thrubusinesses with loudspeakers from creeping more than 250 feet west of aproposed service road alongside Highway 68. Allen went before the GreensboroCity Council in June and won an amendment to the city’s generalizedfuture land use map to change the property’s classification fromcorporate business park to mixed-use commercial land use. He arguedthat the city council’s decision amounted to “downzoning” the propertyto a less intensive use. The alternative, he said, would be even moredisruptive to residents. “I-73 is all about getting the FedEx trafficto go north,” he said. “You’re talking about distribution, logisticsand warehousing.” Larry Proctor, chairman of the planning board and aRepublican candidate for one of the Guilford County Commission’s twoat-large seats, said he sympathized with the residents’ apprehensionsabout change. “I think your fears are valid,” he said.“There is a good buffer, and I think it’s the least of all evils.” Tocomment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at