BB&T, city land swap draws opposition

Planning board narrowly approves rezoning request

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A plan to relocate green space in downtown to make way for a new BB&T office building received some pushback Monday as the Wilson Planning and Design Review Board considered the bank’s rezoning request.

“In my eyes, this was an area that was starting to live again. Now I was very surprised when I read about BB&T’s plans in the newspaper because I hadn’t been notified that the park in front of my house was going to be destroyed and turned into a parking lot,” said Rosa De Perlinghi, a resident on Moss Street. “I do understand sometimes that for the greater good of the community that sacrifices and compromises have to be made, but I don’t understand why a perfectly fine green space that was recently installed has to be torn down for a parking lot.”

De Perlinghi argued that there are other vacant properties in the downtown area where BB&T could invest $35 million and build a new office for hundreds of employees as part of the company’s plans to replace the iconic towers at the corner of Pine and Nash streets.

Planning board member Bruce Carroll agreed with De Perlinghi’s complaints, noting he was hesitant to the rezone 200 Kenan St. W. from open space to center city mixed-use without seeing the master plan from BB&T.

When the project was announced in August, bank and city officials agreed to a land swap, with the Paul V. Berry Hickory Grove Park on Kenan Street given to the bank to be used for the building and parking in exchange for the site of the towers once the two buildings are demolished.

Janet Holland, Wilson land development manager, said city staff have not received architectural plans from BB&T, but she anticipates the bank pursuing various permits before the end of the year.

“With all respect, I make a living at this, and I know they should have the master plan in place,” Carroll said. “This project impacts more than just the one citizen who was concerned enough to come down here.”

Carroll made a motion to deny the rezoning request, which was seconded by Gerald Daugherty. The two men and Alicia Eatmon voted together while Ralph Owens, Charlie Pat Farris and Donn Holt voted against the motion. Chairwoman Judy Weatherington broke the tie, siding with Owens, Farris and Holt to reject the denial.

Owens made a subsequent motion to approve the rezoning, with the other members standing their ground and Weatherington again breaking the tie.

“I’d like to challenge (BB&T) to retain some of the park for the houses and the residents of the senior apartments,” Carroll said.

The Wilson City Council will get the final say on the rezoning request during its 7 p.m. meeting on Nov. 15.