by Daniel Schere @Daniel_Schere

Residents of Winston-Salem’s historic Washington Park neighborhood made their presence known at Monday night’s city council meeting when they filled roughly half the chamber and stood in support of a proposed ninemonth moratorium on new construction and demolition on Acadia Avenue.

“We want the city to review, clarify, and define specific zoning regulations in sensitive, low density commercial areas here,” neighborhood association president Leslie Wakeford said in her remarks to council.

The residents are hoping to get city staff and residents to partner in reviewing the existing zoning laws with the hope of amending them to only allow small, homegrown businesses to operate on the section of Acadia between Hollyrood and South Main Streets.

Jayne Johnston, the owner of Washington Perk & Provisions said a moratorium would not diminish vested interests of the property owners and would still allow for the sale and leasing of any vacant properties.

“The nine month moratorium would give the planning board ample to time to finish all their revisions and possibly implement what they think would be necessary to benefit our neighborhood,” she said.

Resident Steve Lawing who lives two blocks away on nearby Cascade Avenue said residents have lined their yards with signs in opposition to the scheduled construction of a Family Dollar store at the corner of Acadia and South Broad Street.

“The zoning allows and promotes construction of business that we deem detrimental to the quality of life and the property values of our historic neighborhood,” he said.

Lawing acknowledged that nine months would be “shooting for the moon,” but he hopes at least some sort of grace period allows them to study the original intent of the concept of pedestrian business””an idea originally conceived by former neighborhood association president Bill Watkins.

“He (Watkins) had established a task force that was committed to developing the zoning that would prevent just what is happening from happening,” Lawing said. “And they came up with pedestrian business zoning.”

Lawing emphasized that the association has no specific bias against the Family Dollar name but are worried that larger chain stores may lead to increased amounts of traffic and safety along with lower property values.

“We realize that it may be too little too late in this case, but we want to prevent an influx of that type of business from going in the commercial corridor of Washington Park,” he said.

Lawing said the neighborhood has used city funding in the past to help made it more pedestrian friendly and does not think adding a Family Dollar store will help add to the historic character.

“It’s a touchy situation because the city wants to garner and promote new businesses coming in, however as a neighborhood we want to garner and promote the type of business we’d like to see in our neighborhood,” he said.

About 800 households are in the Washington Park neighborhood, and for the last three months they have expressed opposition to the addition of Family Dollar coming in, with the concern of additional commercial businesses following suit. The difficulty lies in the fact that the area in question is already zoned for retail.

At the meeting councilwoman Molly Leight asked whether a moratorium would be legal, to which City Attorney Angela Carmon responded that it would not be due to the laws, and that even if it were legal it would require several public hearings before it could go into effect.

Councilman Jeff MacIntosh said he is open to having a dialogue with retailers who have bought property in the area.

“Even if we can’t legislatively halt them, hopefully we can create a sense of dialogue back and forth and get them to at least pull back until things are clarified,” he said. !