by Daniel Schere | @Daniel_Schere

Lying in the middle of historic Waughtown Street on the south side of Winston-Salem is a more than 3,000 square foot building, which is the only place for roughly one mile that is not a house. The property at 2126 Waughtown was built in the 1920s as a filling station and later operated as a hair salon up until June 2014.

At Monday night’s city council meeting the building was approved to be rezoned from residential to pedestrian business. This type of zoning would allow it to be used for offices, retail or other services.

Project planner Gary Roberts said up until now the building had never been zoned for a commercial purpose, but he does not think it will lead to any changes in the neighborhood.

“This is completely owned by a private property owner who is not seeking any city funds and just wants to be able to use it for a couple more uses legally,” he said. “And so we see this as an opportunity to keep the structure there which we think has value to the neighborhood.”

Roberts said he has met with owner David Cooper three times, and he has agreed to perform the work necessary to ensure that it is up to date with standards set by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. He said the project so far has been met largely with support.

“We haven’t had any calls from any neighbors with opposition, just a couple of inquiries,” Roberts said.

The rezoning was approved by the planning board last month despite the objection of member Melynda Dunigan. Dunigan said she agrees that the building should be preserved but thinks it needs a different classification.

“Retail could be too intense for this,” she told the planning board on Feb. 12. “I would like to see a special use district request with a site plan so we could know what is being proposed.”

Dunigan said she visited the site and was struck by how small it was, along with the proximity to other properties.

“Normally a property like that for commercial use would need some kind of buffering from the surrounding residential properties. Because it’s so small there’s not room to put a buffer in,” she said.

Dunigan added that there is very little parking on-site. A small area to the side of Cline Street can fit about four cars, but no more than that. She said if a retail store goes in, more parking would be needed.

“When you’re rezoning you have to assume endless possibilities,” she said. “That’s why I really think, and this is what I said to the planning board, that the most appropriate situation here would be for the petitioner to ask for a special-use zoning.”

Cooper said when he took over the property a few months ago it was already grandfathered in as a salon and asked for it to be rezoned in order to make sure it did not sit dormant.

“If it loses the salon grandfather then it’s residential only,” he said. “So really right now it’s got all the characteristics of commercial. I mean you don’t have any sightlines.”

Cooper said he plans to lease the building out and does not intend to use it as part of his real estate business, which is located down the road. He said he attended the planning board

meeting but did not understand Dunigan’s concern.

“I don’t see why the parking would be a problem. You’re talking about a neighborhood store that wouldn’t be any worse than people getting their hair done,” he said. “There’s nowhere to park, except for those little five spaces there. That’s it. But you’re talking about a 1000 square foot little building. I mean we’re not doing a sweepstakes shop.”

Cooper said the lack of privacy on the property makes it more suitable for a commercial purpose than a residential one.

The rezoning of 2126 Waughtown stands in stark contrast to the anticipated arrival of Family Dollar in the historic Washington Park neighborhood, which has prompted large amounts of criticism. At Monday night’s meeting many council members, including Molly Leight, expressed a sense of cautious optimism when giving their stamp of approval for the Waughtown rezoning.

“Normally I would vote against a commercial intrusion into a residential neighborhood, but given the fact that this is a historic designation and is obviously meant as a commercial establishment it wouldn’t make a very good residential unit, so I will support this,” Leight said.

According to the Forsyth County GIS database the property is worth $23,300. Councilman James Taylor Jr. said most of the feedback he has gotten has been positive, and he does not anticipate issues with parking.

“This is something we’ve already seen before, it’s just more of a formality,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a large amount of worry because there’s not a large capacity at the facility.” !