Board OK's Change for Gulley's Trailer
Gulley's Garden Center would be allowed to keep a trailer at the back of its property on Broad Street under a recommendation from the Southern Pines Planning Board.
The board voted Thursday to recommend that the Town Council amend the existing zoning ordinances to allow the trailer to remain there. Owner Pete Gulley uses the trailer to store pine straw that he sells to customers. The closed trailer is painted in camouflage colors.
The pine straw must be kept sheltered from the weather, and Gulley said that is the only place he can store it.
"I've had one complaint in 25 years about my trailer," Gulley said.
Gulley said more than 600 people signed a petition asking the town to allow him to keep the trailer. He said many of them are his customers "who enjoy having pine straw available in the middle of town and not have to go out of town to get it."
Gulley told the board during a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance that he has had the trailer since 1981, or for 25 years and seven months.
Gulley's Garden Center is a popular destination on South East Broad Street, drawing customers from all over the county. It is a family-owned business that is in the town's Central Business District.
The town enacted an ordinance in 1989 prohibiting sales and storage of items offered for purchase in a motor vehicle on property in Southern Pines.
The proposed amendment recommended by the Planning Board says that if the motor vehicle existed on the current lot at least five years prior to the enactment of Section 149-C-4 (in 1989), the motor vehicle "shall qualify for an exemption ... and shall not be subject to removal or penalty...."
That means the trailer would have had to have been there in 1984 to be exempt from the ordinance prohibiting sales of items from motor vehicles parked in town.
No one can say for certain why the ordinance was passed in the first place, but Planning Director Bart Nuckols said recently that the planning staff knows of no other cases except for Gulley's where such a practice exists in Southern Pines today.
There may have been some confusion about the ordinance, which is why it had not been enforced, according to some town officials.
Four or five months ago, Councilman David Woodruff said he received some complaints from a regular passerby, which is why he looked into the issue. That prompted town officials to investigate. The town sent Gulley a notice informing him that the trailer was in violation of the ordinance and that he would have to remove it or face a fine.
'Not an Eyesore'
Jeffrey Sheer, president of the Southern Pines Business Association, supported the proposed amendment during the public hearing.
"It's not an eyesore, not a public hazard," he said. "It's a convenience and serves a good purpose. It's probably a good thing that it prevents people from having to drive farther out. If you've got a rule, either enforce it or change it."
Sheer said he supports allowing only the one pinestraw sales trailer designated at Gulley's as long as it remains exactly as it is with the same usage.
Another man spoke against the amendment after introducing himself as the husband of a woman whose grandmother lived in residential property behind Gulley's property line when he parked the trailer parallel to her backyard.
"If you look on it from my side, it doesn't look so good," he said.
He indicated that his wife's grandmother, who is now deceased, had complained about it to someone years ago, but he hadn't discussed it with Gulley himself.
"We camouflaged two-thirds of it so it would blend with the trees," Gulley said. "When I first put it in, the town allowed me to put it at the property line."
He said he'd adjusted its location to try to satisfy the former property owner.
"We can put camouflage paint on the other side of the trailer," he offered.
The Town Council has the final say on the amendment. The council will also hold a public hearing before voting on the proposal.
At a work session in September 2006, council members deadlocked 2-2 -- Mayor Frank Quis not present to break the tie -- over what to do.
Woodruff and Chris Smithson wanted to require Gulley to remove the trailer. Woodruff asked during a discussion on the matter, "Would you want this in your back yard.?" Mayor Pro Tem Fred Walden and Mike Haney wanted to find a way to allow Gulley to keep the trailer.
Gulley has hung a plastic cloth along a clothesline to shield the trailer's backside form the road and painted it camouflage. The tall, narrow top of the trailer is visible from the road, but it is parked deep within the property, not close to the road itself.
In other business, the board voted 5-2 to recommend approval of a request to rezone property on the east side of U.S. 1 between Wisconsin and Illinois avenues, adjacent to the Lob Steer Inn, from Residential Multi-Family to Office Service. Board members Abigail Dowd and Elizabeth Whitmore voted against.
The board voted to recommend denial of two separate requests to rezone .344 acres from Residential Multifamily to Office Services on the east side of North Bennett Street between Maine and Vermont avenues, and for a similar rezoning of .45 acres on the southwest side of West New Hampshire Avenue between North Bennett and North Page Streets.
Residents of that area, as well as some former residents, opposed the rezoning. They said they wanted to protect their neighborhoods from encroaching commercial development along the North Bennett Street corridor. Until recent years, most of the growth had beem residential. That area also contains some of the oldest, most historically significant structures in Southern Pines, according to Ray Owen, who is a former president of the Moore County Historical Association. He spoke during a public hearing.
Chairman Chris Arnold said "it's not time to rezone until we study the future of North Bennett Street." He cast the motion to deny the rezoning.
Whitmore cited the town's land-use plan, which favors protecting residential uses in that area. Dowd argued affordable housing is important in these neighborhoods just west of the downtown where older, often attractively restored, houses exist.
Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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