Opposition building to another request for rezoning along Friendly Avenue near Hobbs Road

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Plans for rezoning about six acres of land at the corner of Hobbs Road and West Friendly Avenue for a 60,000 sq. ft. shopping center are slow to surface but resistance to the development is already building.

At Wednesday's City of Greensboro Planning Board meeting, board members briefly discussed the plan to rezone the area at the request of Halpern Development Company, LLC. The board will review the request and could give its recommendation at the next Zoning Commission meeting Jan. 12. That will also be the first opportunity for the public to give feedback on the idea.

A group from the Friendly Coalition Against Commercial Encroachment was at Wednesday's meeting hoping to hear more about the plan to rezone the property for commercial use. They successfully opposed a similar effort when Trader Joe's was eyeing the same corner one to two years ago.

"We prefer the residential nature of that neighborhood because it is surrounded by more homes than it is surrounded by businesses," said Greg Brown, who lives in the Wedgewood neighborhood but is a volunteer with the coalition.

"We wanted Trader Joe's to come to Greensboro last time and we hope they do choose someday," said Brown. "We would welcome Publix to come to our city; we just hope they would choose an area that's appropriate for commercial development."

Publix has not been announced as a potential new tenant but Brown said their name was included in some paperwork submitted to the City of Greensboro for the rezoning application.

Brown said the coalition would prefer to see developers look elsewhere in Greensboro to establish new stores.

"We think it’s just so important to retain the character of Friendly -- the historic character, the residential character-- and it's part of what makes Greensboro a great place to live is the nature of that area of town and we want to keep it that way," said Brown.

The decision, however, is not up to the coalition. The city council will take the recommendation from the zoning commission under consideration but are under no obligation to follow its advice. Last time, the request for rezoning was pulled before ever reaching city council.

This time, planning board members are saying they will work with the neighborhood around The Friendly Center to come up with a plan that works for everyone.

"If the rezoning is approved it needs to be in harmony with the neighborhood; does it need to be a real commercial development? It needs to be something that fits in because this is a transition piece of property and it needs to be very sensitive to the neighborhood," said Chuck Truby, a planning board member.

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