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Board denies permit for proposed store

Thursday, May 29, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on Wednesday denied a special use permit requested by PAR 3 LLC to build a Dollar General across from Sanville Elementary School.

PAR 3 previously asked that the property at 3874 Stones Dairy Road, Bassett, be rezoned as neighborhood commercial B-2, which would allow the construction of a 2,000-square-foot building on the site. The Henry County Board of Supervisors approved that request Tuesday on a 5-1 vote.

However, PAR 3 had intended to build a 9,100-square-foot building on the site, which would require the special use permit.

Several Blackberry District residents spoke against the store at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, citing traffic concerns and worries that a retail business across the street would prove distracting to Sanville Elementary School students.

Attorney Ward Armstrong, serving as a representative for PAR 3, told the BZA that the Dollar General business model is to build dry goods stores in rural parts of the country.

“I think that this store, which would be located in the Blackberry District, is a good example,” Armstrong said. “You have a residential area which is quite some distance from larger retailers.”

Armstrong said that Dollar General stores, although successful, are not as heavily trafficked as larger stores, and he did not anticipate any traffic issues.

Also, he said, Stones Dairy Road has seen substantial improvements in the last decade, making it straighter and adding to visibility in both directions. Although the store’s entrance would have been directly opposite the entrance to Sanville Elementary School, Armstrong said, he had been made to understand by Henry County Director of Planning, Zoning and Inspections Lee Clark that such arrangements are preferred and considered safer by traffic engineers.

Armstrong said he did not know the current tax-assessed value of the property, although he imagined it is less than $100,000.

“With the improvements, I’m sure it will approach $1 million,” he said. “We’re talking about a substantial increase in the real estate base. It will employ approximately 14 persons, which will add to the employment. The sales generated will generate sales tax, of which a portion ... would be available for Henry County. I think the totality of that, with the fact that it is a good fit for the neighborhood, makes this ... an appropriate case in which to grant a special use permit.”

Lee Pittman, one of the partners at PAR 3, told the BZA that his company was willing to work with the board if its members had conditions for the site, as the company wants to be “a good neighbor” in the area.

BZA member Manker Stone asked Pittman if the proposed Dollar General would be similar to the one at 88 T.B. Stanley Highway in Stanleytown. Pittman said it would not be the exact same building design, but that it would be similar in architecture and identical in square footage.

Stone also asked if Dollar General would be able to build a store 2,000 square feet in size rather than 9,100 square feet. Pittman said the company does not have a store design that would fit into a space that small, nor, to his knowledge, do Dollar General’s competitors.

BZA member Robert Clark asked Pittman and Armstrong if the Dollar General would sell beer and wine.

“There’s not a corporate policy one way or the other on alcohol sales,” Armstrong said. “Some stores sell it, some don’t. Before any store can sell it, of course, they have to comply with state and local laws. It’s been my experience — and I’ve advised my clients of this — that it would not be easy to get an ABC license across the street from an elementary school. ... There are no plans to sell alcohol there at this time.”

During the public hearing, Blackberry District resident Virginia Hoyt was the only person who spoke against the proposed store.

“I really believe it would be a detriment to the neighborhood,” Hoyt said. “If you grant this, you’ll end up bringing in more larger stores. We will not be a rural neighborhood anymore. We’ll end up being a township. We don’t live there for a township; we want the rural area. That’s why we moved here. ... If you bring in Dollar General, Family Dollar will follow, because they’re always there. Then you bring in fast food restaurants.”

Following the public hearing, Clark said one of his main concerns was that granting the special use permit would set a precedent, and then if any other store over 2,000 square feet wanted to locate in the Sanville area, the BZA would have a difficult time denying permission.

BZA member Paul Setliff said the neighborhood commercial district was developed to allow for small commercial businesses within neighborhoods, and that a 2,000-square-foot store falls within the original intent of the zoning classification. A 9,100-square-foot store, however, does not mesh with that original intent, Setliff said.

The BZA rejected the request in a 4-0 vote. Board member Sandra Adams abstained.

According to Stone, PAR 3 has 30 days to decide if it will appeal the case to Henry County Circuit Court.

Following the BZA’s decision, Armstrong said he would inform his clients of their options moving forward.

“Certainly, we’re disappointed with the board’s decision,” he said, “but we appreciate the position they’re in.”

 

 
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