New London shuts out Dollar General
NEW LONDON -- A proposal to build a Dollar General store on a residential lot in New London was denied Wednesday on a 4-1 vote by the New London City Council.
NEW LONDON - A proposal to build a Dollar General store on a residential lot in New London was denied Wednesday on a 4-1 vote by the New London City Council.
The action to deny the rezoning and variance request was taken following numerous public comments - mostly in opposition - and presentation of a petition with at least 70 signatures of residents who oppose the project.
Many said locating the discount retail store in a tree-lined residential area near the town’s scenic Mill Pond, which serves as the gateway to the town’s growing boutique shopping area, would be an eyesore and cheapen the town’s draw for tourists.
Others, however, said not everyone shops at boutiques and the store would generate new tax revenue, jobs and be an asset for residents in the town of about 1,300.
Paul Ryan, a Realtor for the homeowner, said the offer from Dollar General was the only purchase option on the table and the property would likely enter into foreclosure if the zoning request was denied.
Considering that the company was only asking for zoning and variance approval - and wasn’t asking for a tax break or subsidy - Ryan said the town would benefit economically from the store.
It has a revised exterior design and plans for more landscaping.
Ryan said the Dollar General store would be a “beautiful piece of property” when it was done.
That was a hard sell for many residents who said the store would not be a good aesthetic fit for the community.
But Sam DeLeo, who made the zoning request on behalf of Dollar General, said the store would look much better than the “decrepit” auto repair business and pizza shop located on two neighboring commercial lots.
Although some opposed even the idea of a discount, corporate store coming to town, others said they did not oppose the store but did not like the location or having the store’s entrance on the narrow, quiet Third Avenue Southeast instead of Main Street, which is also state Highway 9.
After all the arguments about appearance and economy were heard, the council based its decision on zoning and how the request fit -0 or didn’t fit – with the city’s comprehensive land use plan.
Councilman John Mack said approving the store’s request would result in “spot zoning” that would not reflect the comprehensive plan.
Mayor Bill Gossman said the variance request to build the store six feet away from the property line of the house on the neighboring lot was “too extreme.” The normal setback is 30 feet.
Councilman John Bergman, who supported the proposal and cast the lone vote against rejecting it, said the town has limited space to expand commercial growth and that residential lots may have to be rezoned for commercial lots in the future.
He asked if the council would vote to deny the zoning request if a fictional “kitty boutique” that was popular with residents had made the same request.
DeLeo said the Dollar General has a lengthy process to analyze suitable properties for stores and, at this point, there is not another location in New London.
A Dollar General recently opened in Paynesville and in a brief interview after the meeting, DeLeo said Spicer has expressed interest in having the store come there.
DeLeo said he’s never experienced opposition to a Dollar General coming to a town before, but he said at least New London’s opposition and eventual denial was carried out “in a nice way.”