About two dozen of those residents turned out to the Holly Springs City Council meeting Monday night to let their voices be heard on requests by developer Jim Rollins before the council to annex 3.2 acres into the city and have the land rezoned to allow a 10-gas-pump Flash Foods location at the north entrance of the subdivision.
The City Council is set to vote on Rollins’ requests for the land, which sits on Hickory Flat Highway, at its meeting Oct. 21.
Several residents addressed the City Council on Monday night and even shouted out from the back of the room in City Hall, asking the board to protect Harmony on the Lakes from Rollins’ plans.
One resident, Dan cally Asperger, addressed the council and laid out his concerns, which included traffic congestion and the potential negative impact on home values.
“Please do not cause deterioration of the value of the homes across the street,” Asperger asked the council. “Do not hurt Harmony on the Lakes as you go after commercial tax base.”
Another resident, Phyllis Sullivan, asked the council to help halt the plans.
“Can you stop this from happening?,” she called out from the back of the room.
Before his remarks to the council ended with an eruption of applause from the crowd Monday night, Asperger also noted that Rollins came before the city of Holly Springs with his plans, instead of going to Cherokee County where he’d previously met resistance to a similar plan.
“Flash Foods had the option to operate with the county,” Asperger said. “They did not have to come to the city and ask to be annexed and rezoned. Why would that be (that they did)? It might be because they wouldn’t have gotten approval to move forward. It might be because there’s an economic advantage to coming into the city and avoiding some fees. I don’t know.”
Rollins also came to the meeting Monday night and was candid that Asperger’s suspicions were, at least in some way, correct.
“One of the main reasons — as you read in the paper — was the warm reception I got at Cherokee County,” he said jokingly. “They basically asked me to get in the car and leave the county. I’m still here. And I’ve got about four other pieces of property under contract, too.”
Rollins’ “warm reception” from the county was in June when the Cherokee Planning Commission voted against his plans to build a gas station at the entrance of the Estates at Brooke Park on Highway 20. Rollins then withdrew his request and has recently asked the city of Canton to annex and rezone that land so he can build the gas station, which would also be a Flash Foods.
Harmony on the Lakes residents also said Monday night that they were worried having the gas station in operation 24 hours might bring an undesirable element into their neighborhood and, as a result, crime.
Rollins said crime is something that all communities face.
“Crime’s everywhere,” he said, though he said he didn’t anticipate his Flash Foods creating such a problem.
Councilman Mike Zenchuk noted that the proposed location of the gas station on Hickory Flat Highway was “off the beaten path” for public safety workers.
Zenchuk also said, if he wasn’t mistaken, the Flash Foods would be the only 24-hour business in the city of Holly Springs.
“I don’t think we have any right now that I’m aware of,” Zenchuk said. “If that’s the only 24-hour-a-day location in the city of Holly Springs, why does it have to be right outside the neighborhood?”
Despite the concerns residents raised Monday night about the day-to-day operations of the Flash Foods, one resident said he would have no problem with the gas station — at least until it shut down and left a visual and environmental blight on the neighborhood.
“I don’t care if you have (a gas station) that’s working in front of my neighborhood so much as when that thing goes away. I’ve never seen a gas station that lasted more than about 10 years,” said Harmony on the Lakes resident Brian Murray. “Ten years from now, I’m still going to be in the neighborhood, but I bet your gas station’s probably going to be abandoned.”
Rollins said he didn’t see that happening.
“Most of the stores that Flash Foods has, they own long-term,” he said. “I’m fixing to sell some existing stores that they’ve owned for 30 years.”
One of the most often mentioned concerns raised by the residents Monday night was the idea that having the gas station at the entrance of Harmony on the Lakes would lead to traffic congestion.
Rollins defended his plans on that front as well.
“A convenience store is exactly what it says — it’s a convenience store. It is not a point of destination,” he said. “Nobody drives from one side of the county to the other side of the county to stop at a convenience store. It is for the convenience of the neighborhood.”
Rollins said he could likely decrease the number of pumps at the station from 10 to eight to ease the residents’ worries of traffic.