Fight over Cumberland County Walmart centers around growth

HOPE MILLS, N.C. (WTVD) -- Brenda Faircloth has lived in Hope Mills since the late 1960s. Her view from a living room window on Legion Road is proof-positive it isn't what it used to be.

"This town is grown by leaps and bounds," said Faircloth. "They want the revenue, but they want it to stay little 'Mill Hill.' Well, you can't have it both ways."

Faircloth is one of about half-a-dozen homeowners who are selling their properties to make room for a new Walmart Neighborhood store at the corner of Legion and Elk Roads. The area is privy to 14,000 drivers a day, and is in the middle of the Southview middle and high schools, and close to Baldwin Elementary School.

On Monday evening, the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners narrowly approved moving forward with the deal, which has been the center of controversy for more than a year.

However, opponents and proponents argue their points for the same reasons--traffic, safety, revenue and growth.

Faircloth and her neighbors said they've literally been trapped in their driveways for years, as certain times of day make it near-impossible to exit the homes. They've been unable to sell their homes because of the tremendous growth and traffic in the area, which includes a major NCDOT widening project.

Then Walmart came in with an offer last year that included paying for a waterline necessary to develop the commercial property.

"We are the ones that's paying for that," said Faircloth. "Now the board [of commissioners] don't seem, and a lot of people thinks Walmart is paying for all this."

"Well Walmart approached us and [said] 'Are ya'll willing to take a 10 percent cut,'" Faircloth continued. "Yes, we are just to get out of here."

Commissioner Jerry Legge argues a 2013 land use plan for Southwest Cumberland County should have led the way on this decision.

The plan, which included the opinion of 200 or so residents, looked to keep the 11 acres where Walmart will build as "dense residential" property.

Instead, the commissioners voted months ago to change the zoning to commercial by the same 3-2 vote that gave Walmart thumbs up Monday night.

"I think it's just a convenience factor because I live right up the street," said Timothy Royal. "So for me, it just seems like natural progression."

Legge described the potential for increased traffic around the three schools as problematic.

"One of my fellow commissioners says that will bring in $30,000 or $65,000 a year in tax revenue," said Legge. "What would he take for his child? Would he take $65,000 for his child? I don't think so."
"With the schools and the lights right here... it's going to cause too many issues," agreed Cheryl Henderson, a nearby resident. "Too much going on in one area."

Developers have promised to add traffic signals near Baldwin Elementary to ease safety concerns. There was also an aesthetics conversation regarding vegetation around the planned project, which includes gas pumps, the grocery store and other retail stores.

One of Faircloths' neighbors, who thought she'd moved into her "forever home," said her children are now helping her find a place to relocate. Faircloth already has a few options on the table to move.
"It's just a time for things to move on," she said.

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