Featured photo: A zoning notice sign posted into the grass at 3530 and 3534 McConnell Road. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Out on the east edge of Greensboro on McConnell Road lie nearly 20 acres of verdant land that really put the “green” in Greensboro.

But that’s all about to change. 

On Tuesday night, Greensboro’s city council voted 8-1 to annex the land into the city and 9-0 to rezone it from its current intended use of farming and commercial business to light industrial, clearing the way for real estate investment and development company Wylie Capital to turn the area into a 254,000 square foot warehouse, as previously reported by TCB

And that’s all part of the city’s plan — specifically GSO 2040, the long-term comprehensive plan that outlines the city’s vision for the future. In the plan, this area in East Greensboro has been designated for industrial use. Like East Greensboro, which is predominantly Black, many Black neighborhoods across the country have been used for industrial development and waste disposal sites that detract from home values and cause health concerns among residents.

On Tuesday night, neighbors who opposed the rezoning such as Lauren Mitchell pointed out that the current property owners don’t live in the area. By pushing forward with the plan, the city is “not considering the people in the area,” she said. The mailing address for the property’s annexation and rezoning applicant Betty Garrett is located in Richmond, VA according to Guilford County Property Records. The other applicants, Kelly and Mark Ward, live six miles away from the property.

“If you are not living in the area, how is it that you can say this is what’s best for the area?” asked Mitchell.

While using this part of town for industrial development is the city’s goal, that’s not the desire of residents who worry that warehouses and the traffic that comes with them will chip away at their sanctuary and personal peace.

“We are pleading with you to hear us,” Mitchell told the council. “If this was your home, your place of refuge…would you want an industrial building at your front door?”

In a June 14 email to TCB, Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who voted on Tuesday to rezone the property, noted that this site is up the street from the recently announced Clearly Clean Products location, a manufacturing company that creates recycled food trays.

The company is bringing a “significant investment” of $25 million to the city and hiring 80 employees at a $59,000 average annual salary, Vaughan wrote, adding that the property’s access to I-40 makes it “very attractive for economic development.”

Some neighbors are distrustful due to other construction nearby.

JoAnna Lowe, who owns and resides at property directly east of the site in question, said that a different warehouse construction project near her property is dumping their stormwater on her land, damaging her property and flooding her lake, and that the city has been no help. That’s why she has “no faith” in the city’s ability to regulate the future warehouse construction project on McConnell Road.

“My issue is with the city not regulating stormwater. If they’ve done it with the property that is currently built, they will do it with the next property,” Lowe added.

Residents are also worried about what will happen to their home values as warehouses move in. 

“Warehouses too close to housing ruins property values and quality of life,” said resident Dori Mondon. Residents next to the newest warehouses have “bright lights shining on their homes all night, blocked views, endless construction and soon the ongoing sounds of industry,” Mondon added.

The developers will be required to create a buffer with trees that will reduce visibility of the warehouse, but whether they can see the building is the least of some residents’ worries.“When these buildings are fully staffed and functional, how much traffic, how many people, how many delays are you adding to our community?” Mitchell asked.  The city’s transportation director Hanna Cockburn estimates that the development will add an estimated 1,018 daily trips to the area. McConnell Road currently clocks 3,900 vehicles per day, according to city documents.

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