WALNUT COVE – Colleagues on the Town of Walnut Cove board of directors showed their support for board member Christine Boles with a narrow 2-1 vote last week in a hearing initiated by a decision by Justice Angela Puckett.
The developer of a new Dollar General, Teramore, appealed the Board of Adjustment decision last January denying Dollar General a permit to set up a new store along Main Street in Smith Street, just south of Southeastern Stokes Middle School. Their reason was that Boles was a member of a Facebook group called “No Dollar General” and had not disclosed it at the start of the January hearing.
In court, Judge Puckett asked Teramore’s lawyers if Boles commented on the page or even “liked” other people’s comments, and they said no. Nonetheless, Puckett agreed that his failure to disclose this fact suggested some impartiality, and therefore referred the decision to the Walnut Cove board of directors.
Puckett said that the fact that Boles did not mention that she was connected to this Facebook group created a “reasonable question” and while the judge did not suggest that Boles had acted in a biased manner, it did create a preoccupation”. Terramore’s legal team told Puckett they reportedly objected to Boles’ participation at the start of the January hearing.
Boles was first given the opportunity to withdraw from the January hearing, to which she said no. (If she had recused herself, the whole authorization process should have been restarted and a new hearing scheduled.)
At this point, the remaining board members could vote yes or no on whether Boles appropriately participated in the extrajudicial hearing last January. Board members Wesley Durrell and Lisa Hairston voted that she had done it, while board member Ramona Timm voted that she had not. “Judge Puckett saw the shadow of a doubt and couldn’t ignore it,” said Timm.
“I made (my) decision because Ms. Boles deserved to be a part of the decision that we all worked so hard on,” Durrell said.
The 2-1 vote means the original board decision against the developers stands.
It remains likely that the developer and his attorneys will appear on this ruling, both sides agreed at the meeting.
The work of the Board of Adjustment on the Dollar General affair is not quite finished, however. Justice Puckett also said she found the January ruling lacking in detail for its findings, and therefore ordered council to provide more detailed reasoning for its decision based on testimony provided at the January hearing. . This material will be worked on during the January council meeting.
Ann Rowe, the attorney for the Town of Walnut Cove, acted as a sort of master of ceremonies and “explanatory” during the meeting, having represented the town at the legal hearing with Justice Puckett, who s ‘is held in Dobson. Rowe said the judge’s decision was difficult to take into account and that sometimes lawyers on both sides “were a little confused by parts of the decision.” After recapping the situation, Rowe added, “I’m sure it’s as clear as mud.”
The new chairman of the Adjustment Council, Greg Laroche, was not present Thursday evening because he is subject to a 10-day COVID quarantine. Hairston is one of the members of the Council for Extraterritorial Jurisdiction.
Teramore’s senior attorney, Mike Fox, was also present at the meeting.
The case dates back to September 2019, when owner Carol Shamburg sought to sell 12 acres to Teramore Development LLC for development. Teramore then applied for a permit to use two acres to build the retail business at the corner of Main and Smith Streets, a location that immediately created controversy due to its location in the middle of a residential neighborhood, its proximity to Southeastern Middle School and the very nature of Smith Street, a narrow one-way lane, and a blind double-curve stretch of Main Street.
Dollar General has a store in Walnut Cove, on Hwy 65, near the intersection with Hwy 311 (Main Street) and just over two miles from this proposed site, and three other stores within a radius of six thousand.