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Store zoning passes

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a rezoning request that potentially would allow the construction of a Dollar General across from Sanville Elementary School.

At a May 14 meeting of the Henry County Planning Commission, the commission voted to recommend the supervisors approve the request to rezone the property at 3874 Stones Dairy Road, Bassett, as Neighborhood Commercial District B-2.

This zoning designation would allow the construction of a 2,000-square-foot retail site on the property.

However, PAR 3 Development Group LLC intends to build a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General store on the site. The added square footage requires a special use permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).

Now that the supervisors have approved the rezoning request, the BZA will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. today at the Henry County Administration Building to vote on the special use permit.

During a public hearing at the supervisors’ 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday on the proposed rezoning, several people spoke.

Attorney Ward Armstrong said he had been retained by PAR 3 about one hour before the meeting to serve as its representative.

“I think the mindset of this board has always been that we want to promote economic development every chance we get,” Armstrong said. “It seems to me that this type of soft commercial use would be a nice fit. ... In any event, I’m here on behalf of PAR 3 to ask for favorable consideration by the board.”

Hal Dee West, Blackberry District representative on the planning commission, said the commission, regardless of members’ opinions on the matter, could consider the issue only from the perspective of appropriate land use. That, he said, is why he moved to recommend the rezoning request.

Other speakers included Virginia Hoyt, Ron Howard and Wendy Campbell, all of the Blackberry District and all opposed to the proposed Dollar General.

Hoyt said she created a petition against the proposal, which she said had been signed by 66 people. Several others in attendance signed the petition during the meeting until board Chairman H.G. Vaughn informed Hoyt that it was inappropriate to solicit for petition signatures during the board meeting.

“This is a rural area, and most people do not want it to become commercialized,” Hoyt said. “We have two established family-operated stores, and having a Dollar General open would cause economic hardships, if not put them out of business and cause loss of jobs.”

Hoyt’s other concerns included traffic delays, an increased risk of traffic accidents and the possibility a Family Dollar store would follow Dollar General, as she has observed that the two stores tend to build near each other.

Howard agreed with all of Hoyt’s concerns.

“My concern is the school is going to be directly across from Sanville (Elementary) School’s driveway,” Howard said. “Trucks going in and out of the store are going to create a problem with traffic coming in and out of the school. You’ve got the issue of small children, elementary-aged children, and traffic going in and out of the store. ... I just think it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Campbell said the county already has a large number of Dollar General stores, and she did not think it needs any more.

“We have children across the street at the school at Sanville. We do not need traffic going in and out ... or any more distractions than already goes on in their classrooms,” Campbell said. “We have children with special needs in Sanville school. They don’t need any extra (distractions) going on.”

Added Campbell, “My other concern is, is this store going to carry alcohol? Are (customers) going to be able to sit in the parking lot in front of the school with alcohol? I don’t think anything else needs to be exposed to our children, because they’re already exposed to too much.”

Lee Clark, Henry County director of planning, zoning and inspections, said that since Stones Dairy Road has been redesigned, it is considered safe for commercial use by traffic engineers.

Regarding concerns that the entrances to Dollar General and Sanville Elementary School directly oppose each other, Clark said that “from a traffic engineering standpoint, it’s much safer to line up entrances directly across from each other. It makes the left-turn movements much safer for both parties. They can see what the intent of the person across from them at the intersection is.”

Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant said that ultimately, the board of supervisors must consider the progress of the county.

“Retail means jobs,” Bryant said. “Jobs mean money for the county. The business that you’re talking about ... it’s progress. It’s hard, for me as a supervisor, to stop progress.”

Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan said she understood the concerns of those who had spoken against the Dollar General, but denying zoning might set a bad precedent.

“I don’t want this community to feel like this board is setting county-wide precedents by denying a prospective retailer if they are acting within the guidelines and parameters that have been established by this county government,” Buchanan said.

Vaughn said that in his experience, Dollar General has a good reputation. The board, he said, cannot consider issues of business competition when they act on a zoning request.

Following the public hearing, the supervisors approved the rezoning request in a 5-1 vote. Blackberry District Supervisor Jim Adams cast the dissenting vote.

Following the meeting, Armstrong said he was pleased with the decision.

“I think this board has always been very pro-business,” he said. “We’re not talking about some factory or huge commercial enterprise. My experience with Dollar General is that they have been a very good neighbor, their buildings are very clean, they’re a quiet type of operation.”

Added Armstrong, “This board recognizes that every little bit helps. This operation is going to create 14 jobs and generate a substantial increase in the value of the property, which means increased real estate taxes for this board.”

He said he had not yet discussed with PAR 3 what, if any, steps would be taken if the BZA denies the special use permit request at today’s meeting.

Also at the board’s 6 p.m. meeting, the supervisors:

• Heard from Chad Martin of the Give Back Foundation about a fatherhood celebration planned June 7.

Others, including Martinsville Assistant City Manager/Director of Community Development Wayne Knox, also spoke in favor of the event.

According to the speakers, the Men of Standard celebration of fatherhood is designed to urge men to dedicate or rededicate themselves to being good fathers.

The event will begin at 8 a.m. June 7 with a breakfast and panel discussion at Soul Winners Church at 704 E. Church St.; continue with a 10 a.m. march to the Martinsville Municipal Building, which will end with a fatherhood pledge ceremony; and end with a “family fun day” at Bridge Street parking lot from noon to 5 p.m.

• Heard a report on general highway matters from Virginia Department of Transportation Assistant Residency Administrator David Kiser.

Bryant and Iriswood District Supervisor Milton Kendall asked Kiser about mowing efforts on parts of U.S. 58 near the Pittsylvania County line. Both said that large stretches of that route were unmowed. Kiser said VDOT still is in the process of mowing, but if the tall grass presented a safety hazard, VDOT would expedite the mowing.

• Approved VDOT’s 2014-2020 Six-Year Secondary Road Plan for Henry County.

• Approved additional appropriations of $6.5 million for grading at the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission following a public hearing. No members of the public spoke at the hearing.

• Accepted and appropriated an Economic Impact Grant following a public hearing. No members of the public spoke at the hearing.


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