Council Asks Property Owners To Reach Compromise In Disputed Case

Bonnie Godwin (center) answers a question from a town council member as Dr. Richard Lee (right) and Planning Director Stephen Wensman (left) look on. Photo

The Smithfield Town Council has tabled a request to allow a former doctor’s office be converted into a single family residence in hopes a compromise can be reached with the owner of an adjacent medical office.

Bonnie Creech Godwin of Selma, representing Highway 39 #6217 LP, appeared before the town council on April 2nd asking for a Special Use Permit to allow the former office of Dr. Stratton Story at 707 North Street be converted into a single family residence.  Godwin said since acquiring building and 0.17 acre site more than a year ago they haven’t had any luck finding a commercial tenant.  She said there is a demand for residential rental property and she would like to convert the property into a residential dwelling.

Three properties along North Street to the east are all former single family homes but are now used by doctors. They include Dr. Richard Lee at Neuse Gastroenterology, located next door at 709 North Street.   Dr. Lee appeared before the council asking they deny the permit.   Dr, Lee said his office and Godwin’s property share a common driveway off North Street.  At the rear of the properties is a shared parking lot, but there doesn’t appear to be a shared access easement for the parking area or driveway, according to Smithfield Planning Director Stephen Wensman.

Wensman said the planning department recommended the Council approve the permit, however Dr. Lee said turning the former office into a home could create a safety issue.  He said if a tenant had children who played outside in the driveway or parking lot area it could create a hazard. The entire rear of the property is paved and children would be playing around cars entering and leaving his office, Lee stated.

At the request of Mayor Pro Tem Travis Scott and Councilman Emery Ashley, Godwin agreed to meet with Dr. Lee to try and work out a compromise and to clear up any questions about how much each party owns of the shared driveway.  Ashley also proposed Godwin consider installing a fence that could solve some of the safety and property line issues.

The council voted unanimously to table the request until their May 7th meeting.