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Store permit denied by board

Members of the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors — in a 3-2 vote — denied a rezoning permit for a proposed Dollar General store in the county following a presentation by the contractor associated with Dollar General, a public hearing in which one member spoke and a heated discussion between members of the board Tuesday.

An application requested a rezoning of a land parcel from A-2 Agricultural General to B-2 Limited Business to open a Dollar General store on Route 45 south of Holman Mill Road, using 3.5 acres of an eight-acre site.

Planning and Zoning Director Sara Carter said, in response to concerns from members of the public, that the proposed Dollar General store would not be at Tipton’s Midway Grocery, which closed in May, though there was an initial discussion about having the Dollar General at the Midway site.

“The initial request that was given to the (Cumberland County) Planning Commission in terms of just a discussion item for this to be at what was the Midway site,” Carter said, “and there were a lot of folks that still have that in their mind because they know the previous owner of Midway was in conversations with the developer about this, and then those conversations broke over with the new owner, so they moved to another site.”

Members of the planning commission had voted 5-0 in denial of the permit, citing that the location was not in a growth area and citing concerns about the location’s potential effect on surrounding residents.

Zac Ivey, assistant development manager at Par 5 Development Group, a development company associated with Dollar General based in Aberdeen, North Carolina, gave a presentation about the site. Engineers from South Boston-based Summit Engineering were also present to address questions about the site.

Ivey said the location would offer a place in the county where residents could come to get supplies without having to make a 15-20-mile drive, and it would create six to eight new full-time jobs with benefits.

“Dollar General, they have a market research department (which) actually researches where they want to be, why they want to be there,” Ivey said, noting that the investment from Dollar General to build the site would be more than $1 million. “And it indicated that it wanted to build a site in the area along Cumberland Road just because it would serve, they felt like, with market demands.”

Ivey said Dollar General targets rural areas that could most benefit from the location.

“In those areas, Dollar General would be able to serve as a convenient place to shop so that these residents aren’t having to drive 15-20 miles, sometimes out of the county, to pick up a loaf of bread,” Ivey said.

He also noted that the store would have a six-foot wooden fence to create privacy for surrounding residents and prevent potential trash from entering other properties. He said the store would also have a type of lighting called “night-sky friendly” lighting to prevent light pollution.

“We want to be a good neighbor, and that’s what we’re here to do,” Ivey said. “We don’t want to disrupt what’s already there, and (we) want to limit the light exposure as much as we can.”

District Four Supervisor David Meinhard followed up about details on the Midway site.

Ivey said the site had been under discussion.

“We were in conversation with the previous site,” Ivey said during the presentation. “Those conversations kind of went awry, and (the store) went into foreclosure.”

Ivey noted that there were other potential sites in the county where site owners did not sell the land and noted that the site would have potential Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) issues relating to the entrance to the Midway location.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of it, because I’m on the development side, and we have a land acquisition team that deals with that, but there (were) talks. It was under contract. When it went into foreclosure, the owner of that site became unwilling to sell, would not work with us any longer, and so the contract was voided,” Ivey said in response to Meinhard.

A member of the public, Frank Fields, said he lives and owns property adjacent to where the Dollar General store would be located. He said he worried about tractor-trailers pulling into the store from the two-lane highway — a potential traffic hazard — and about the trash traveling to surrounding properties and the close proximity of the store to his house.

He said that “60 is a small road. I don’t know where they would make it wide enough to make a turning lane. I’m not VDOT, but if they put a light there, it’s going to stop everybody right in front of my house.”

“I moved here 10 years ago, and I didn’t move beside a business,” Fields said. “It’s all residential property. Now I’m having to speak up, because I don’t want next door to be turned into a business.”

Following the closing of the public hearing, a heated debate took place between members of the board concerning what the decision could mean for economic development in the county.

Lloyd Banks

District Two Supervisor Lloyd Banks said a decision to deny the rezoning permit would potentially impact the county’s economic development and continue a longstanding issue of growth in the county.

“For six years, I’ve heard people say that Cumberland is open for business,” Banks said. “We need business. We need revenue. We need businesses to come. We need to join this economic development association, and we need to pour this money into attracting businesses. We need to go out and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Courthouse Road. We have incredible business here, and we’re nitpicking on people today.”

“I understand the neighbor next door; I wouldn’t want you next door either, but it sounds like you’re going to put up a six-foot fence,” Banks said, addressing the Par 5 representatives. “You’re going to build this. You’re going to build that. You’re going to try to embrace the community, satisfy all parties, and I’m just shocked and surprised.”

“My statement is going to be this to my fellow board members: if this request is denied, I will never support another dollar spent on economic development,” Banks said. “Because we’re throwing money at hopes and prayers, and then when people come in, say, ‘I want to do something,’ well, it’s just not perfect. Nothing is perfect. If you all are asking to come in to open up a XXX club, you all aren’t coming in asking to do something that’s immoral. Dollar General is not an operation that is open today and closed tomorrow. … If we turn business away, we’re sending a message to every business out there: ‘You come to Cumberland, we’re going to nitpick you, and we don’t really want you.’”

Parker Wheeler

Banks asked for members of the board to find a way to solve the issues related to the location and said he was in favor of passing the motion.

District Five Supervisor Parker Wheeler said the issues with the proposed location would create more issues than it would solve.

“You’re right, nothing’s perfect,” Wheeler said, addressing Banks. “This is not a perfect situation … It isn’t even really a good situation. I’m sure there are a lot more, better sites for this particular thing to be in. This site is not the site we need to (give the) OK to for this particular business to get into. I’d love to see this business. I definitely support business, but even with pro-business, there are limits to what you can go to bring a business in. You have to use some reality. You have to follow your comprehensive plan or grab the book and throw it out the window. You have to have some sort of growth area … You can’t just pop in and say, ‘I want to put a business between two neighbors’ houses.’ That is not the way to open a business.”

Wheeler, District Three Supervisor and Chairman Kevin Ingle and District One Supervisor Bill Osl voted to deny the permit, while Banks and Meinhard voted to approve the permit.

Members of the board, following another public hearing Tuesday to change the density rules associated with an R-1 Residential Area, voted unanimously in favor of changing the density rules. No one spoke during the public hearing.