Despite fierce opposition from locals, the Brunswick County Board of Supervisors approved a request to rezone property from Agriculture to Business that will allow Dollar General to build a store in Ebony, a small rural community in the southern part of Brunswick County. The request pitted the interests of residents to keep the area rural against those who see this as an economic development opportunity.
The vote was 3 to 2 with Supervisor Dr. Barbara Jarrett Harris – Chairperson, breaking the tie vote. Supervisor John Zubrod, who represents the Meherrin District, made a motion to deny the rezoning request and Supervisor Bernard Jones seconded the motion and Supervisor Dr. Alfonzo Seward and Supervisor Welton Tyler voted against the motion setting the stage for Dr. Harris to break the tie. Tyler then made a motion to approve the request seconded by Seward and Zubrod and Jones voted against the motion and Dr. Harris voted in favor.
The supervisors held a public hearing on the request on Wednesday, Jan. 31, and it was standing room only. The room was divided with those opposing the rezoning seated on one side and those who favored the rezoning seated on the other. Those opposing the rezoning prepared signs voicing their opposition.
The request was submitted by Par 5 Development Group, LLC to rezone 8.36 acres owned by Jerry Michael and Susan Royster Jones from Agricultural to Business. Approximately 2.04 acres of the parcel will be developed for the project. Dollar General wanted to construct, operate, and maintain a 9,100 square foot retail store.
According to information provided by Director of Planning George E. Morrison, III, the subject property is located on the east side of Ebony Road (State Route 903), across from the intersection of Hendricks Mill Road and Robinson Ferry Road in the Meherrin Election and Magisterial Districts.
As background the Brunswick County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the request on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. The Planning Commission deferred action on the request until December and at that meeting recommended approval of the rezoning request to the supervisors.
Prior to the vote Tyler said he understood the comments from members of the community. He said he visited the site on Sunday and talked to people who wanted Dollar General to come to Ebony. He said Brunswick County is advertising that it is Open for Business and said denying the request would go against that claim. Tyler said Dollar General stores are located in Chesterfield and Short Pump and feels the store will help the community.
“I have to vote my convictions and the business will increase the tax base and help take the burden off homeowners. We need to diversify our tax base. Business is good for everybody. Competition is good. Dollar General is not selling gas. I feel this will be good for the community,” Tyler said.
Zubrod said he has served on the board for 4 years and his phone has been ringing off the hook with folks expressing opposition to Dollar General. He said he has also received numerous emails in opposition. Zubrod said he has lived in the Ebony area for 36 years and raised his family children and now his grandchildren there. He expressed concern about the increase in traffic, especially at the intersection.
Zubrod said that approximately 10 percent of the people who signed the petition in favor of Dollar General were local signatures. He said the supervisors’ vision is to protect the local charm of the county. Zubrod said if the rezoning request is granted, the property value of surrounding properties would likely decrease.
“Ebony is unique. It is historic and picturesque. There are 100 year plus farms in the community. People take pride in their community. I am very concerned about the decline in value of surrounding properties. I make a motion to deny the rezoning request,” Zubrod said.