NORFOLK (WAVY) – Norfolk native Dr. Travis O’Bannon has cleared the first major hurdle in realizing what he sees as a dream.

The pharmacist who graduated from Granby High, VCU and the Pharmacy School of Hampton University has land on Hydro St. near Campostella. He wants to build an independent pharmacy on the quarter acre, but needs the zoning to switch from industrial to commercial.

Thursday’s meeting of the Planning Commission began with the odds stacked against O’Bannon’s request. City planning staff had recommended denial of the change, saying it would be incompatible with the surrounding industrial land owned by Titan America, a heavy building materials company.

“The odds were not gonna be in our favor, but there’s no point in not trying and not pursuing what’s right,” O’Bannon said.

Fourteen people spoke on behalf of the project, including Heather Dixon, who provides mental health services in the area.

“Many of our patients are unable to get to a pharmacy,” she told the commission. “(O’Bannon) is the only one brave enough to come and build here.”

The head of the neighborhood Civic League, O’Bannon’s pastor, family members and fellow pharmacist Dr. Patrick Wright Jr. also spoke in support of the project.

“He’s the last line of hope (for area residents),” Wright said. “Who else will care for these patients?”

It was so effective, Commissioner Kathryn Shelton said she was moved to tears.

“That’s my big sister. She’s amazing. That’s all on her,” O’Bannon said about Shelton. “I appreciate her for her vote, and the Commission for actually listening to what the community needs and following suit.”

The five commissioners present voted unanimously for approval. It now goes to Norfolk City Council, which is expected to consider the project at the May 23 meeting.