The Cherokee Planning Commission voted unanimously, with member Betty Callahan absent, to recommend the county approve Lisa Meyer’s request to rezone the historic property she plans to move her business to once a developer demolishes Bell’s Store.
“I’m really excited,” said Meyer, who is being driven out of Bell’s Store by Flash Foods’ plans to build a gas station. “I’m pretty sure the Board of Commissioners is going to do the same — at least I hope they do. You never know.”
Meyer is asking the county to rezone the 1.2 acres on Highway 20 holding the former W.A. Lathem and Sons General Merchandise building, a more than a century old relic of the Lathemtown community.
Assuming the request is approved, Meyer said she plans to restore the building and bring out its aged charm, as many have credited her with doing to Bell’s Store, also a former general store and a landmark of the Buffington community.
The Board of Commissioners, which gets the final call on zoning requests, will likely take up the case at its meeting April 15. Previously, commissioners have joined with the Cherokee County Historical Society in trying to save Bell’s Store, but so far they haven’t been able to stop the plans.
Meyer’s plans to move to Lathemtown have given hope to some who frequented her store and feel it has represented a simpler time Cherokee’s history.
But she has seen some opposition from neighbors near the new location, mostly with worries about whether Scott Boys BBQ would be setting up at the Lathemtown store, as they had in Bell’s Store.
Lifelong Lathemtown resident Diane Lathem told the planning commission Tuesday she wasn’t opposed to Meyer’s business opening up near her home, but she was concerned about smoke from the barbecue operation. Lathem said she had a health condition she worried could be made worse by the smoke.
But Vicki Taylor Lee, Cherokee County’s zoning administrator, told the planning commission Scott Boys had applied to rezone property near downtown Canton to move their operation. Meyer also said she didn’t think Scott Boys had any intentions of setting up at the Lathemtown location.
Lathem, though, was also worried by what other businesses could someday open on property, if it is zoned for commercial development, as Meyer is requesting.
“I have grave concerns that this rezoning will impact the quality of life that I have enjoyed and my neighbors have enjoyed for many years,” she said.
The concerns about the zoning classification were mostly focused not on the building Meyer plans to set up her produce market in, but a small vacant house next door, which is also on the property Meyer plans to buy in a lease-purchase.
Meyer said she had no immediate plans for that house, but she wanted it to be included in the zoning, in case she decided to use it or sell it in the future.
But as the clock runs out on a lease she has been given to stay in Bell’s Store until the end of June, Meyer says she just wants to focus on the W.A. Lathem and Sons building.
“I just want to get this over with and focus on getting Cherokee Market moved as soon as possible,” Meyer told the planning commission. “We’re in the prime time of our season. This was really bad timing. I wish we could’ve done this in the wintertime. The sooner we can move, the sooner we can bring something good to Lathemtown.”