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Store hits snag

Thursday, July 10, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Following a public hearing, the Henry County Planning Commission unanimously voted Wednesday not to endorse the construction of a Dollar General across from Sanville Elementary School.

The hearing marked the second time that developer PAR 3 LLC has gone before the planning commission to request that the property at 3874 Stones Dairy Road be rezoned so a Dollar General could be built there.

Blackberry District commission member Hal Dee West said that the commission must look at whether the land use is appropriate. The commission and the Henry County Board of Supervisors previously had deemed the site appropriate for B-2 neighborhood commercial zoning, which allows for light commercial development, West said.

However, he said, the request to rezone the site as general commercial B-1, which allows for heavier commercial development and larger building sizes, is not appropriate for the site.

“The B-1 (zoning), I do not believe, is appropriate in a residential neighborhood, which this basically is,” West said. “The other businesses (along Stones Dairy Road), for the most part, were there before the advent of zoning in the state of Virginia. They were there by right when zoning was implemented. I do not think that the B-1 zoning change to this property would be beneficial to the community.”

Commission members Herman Haley and Fred Spencer agreed, both citing the concern that if the property was rezoned as B-1 and Dollar General were to later leave the site, heavier commercial businesses could move in, such as auto mechanic businesses and gas stations.

Commission member Glenwood Vaughn agreed, adding that she felt there were other sites in the county that would be more appropriate for the store.

“I’m pretty sure that there would be no change in how much county tax would come in if (the Dollar General were built) in another location more suited,” she said.

Last May, PAR 3 applied to have the property rezoned as neighborhood commercial B-2, which allows for light commercial businesses of 2,000 square feet or less. PAR 3 also applied for a special use permit to allow the construction of a 9,100-square-foot building on the site.

The planning commission endorsed the rezoning and the Henry County Board of Supervisors approved it. However, the Henry County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) denied the special use permit.

At a public hearing before the commission’s decision Wednesday, attorney Ward Armstrong, who represents PAR 3, said that “simply put, if it’s not rezoned B-1, there will be no Dollar General store there.”

“All of us who have lived in this community for some time ... have seen us lead the state in unemployment rates,” Armstrong added. “We struggle mightily, and I think it’s appropriate that any time we have an opportunity to attract business — and that includes retail — that we ought to attempt to do that.”

Armstrong said a number of people at the hearing supported the store’s construction, and he asked commission Chairman Paul Setliff if those people could be recognized. Setliff approved, and about 15 of the 20-some people in attendance raised their hands.

Those who spoke in favor of the store included Layne Fuller, who is with PAR 3; Clifford Stone; Gregory Aliff; and David Stone.

Fuller said that in addition to roughly $1.3 million in property taxes, the county would gain about 15 jobs, some of them higher-paying management positions.

Clifford Stone said that as a lifelong resident of the Sanville community, he recalls when there were multiple commercial businesses in the community. He named about 10 of them.

At past hearings, Stone said, concerns had been raised that the store would create too much traffic across from Sanville Elementary School. However, he said, John Redd Smith Elementary School and Collinsville Primary School both are located across from a number of high-traffic restaurants in Collinsville.

Stone also pointed out that as Sanville residents grow older, it is more convenient to have a nearby dry goods store available to them.

County Line Road resident Virginia Hoyt said she opposes the construction of the Dollar General. She cited a potential decrease in property values and minimal job growth, among other concerns.

“The community already has two country stores that meet their needs,” Hoyt said. “A Dollar General should be built where there is a broader customer base with more traffic flow. There are more suitable locations available in Henry County willing to have a store built. ... This is a rural community, and we do not want it to become a township or a city.”

Hoyt added that she did not believe local contractors would be used in the construction of the site. Fuller returned to the podium to clarify, saying that although the contractor is based out of Aberdeen, North Carolina, local subcontractors would be used during construction.

Stones Dairy Road resident David Stone spoke in favor of the Dollar General, saying he felt it would improve the Sanville Community.

Stone said he strongly disagreed with a statement that Henry County Director of Planning, Zoning and Inspections Lee Clark had made in a Bulletin article last week.

Clark had said that he doubted a Sanville Dollar General would increase sales taxes in Henry County, as he expected it would mainly be used by Sanville residents and not people from other counties.

Stone said he and his brother had owned a business on Virginia 57, and he estimated that 50 percent of their business was with Patrick County residents.

“Patrick County brings a lot of revenue into Henry County,” Stone said.

Stone also said that he has lived in Henry County all his life, but he did not believe that Hoyt had lived in the county as long.

“I don’t think this lady’s been here over 10 years, maybe not 10 years,” Stone said, to which Hoyt replied that she had lived on County Line Road for 20 years.

At that point Setliff called for order. After Stone finished speaking, Setliff allowed Hoyt to return to the podium.

“I’ve been here 20 years, and I think that’s a good basis for making a choice of what I want in my neighborhood,” Hoyt said. “I moved here from a busy city: Norfolk, Virginia. I hated the city, and I wanted to live in the country. I want to stay in the country. ... I’m not against 2,000-foot stores, and I’m not against economic growth. But I want it to be where it’s appropriate.”

The store’s rezoning request now goes to the board of supervisors, which will consider it at its July 22 meeting.

Also at the public hearing Wednesday night, the commission unanimously endorsed a request by Kenneth W. Covington to rezone property at approximately 5968 Greensboro Road from commercial B-1 to agricultural A-1 so that Covington could place a single-family dwelling on the site.

Commission member Lawrence A. Penn Jr. was not in attendance at the meeting.


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