By Michael Campbell, News Editor
July 12, 2017 | 9:56 a.m.
SURRY – One of America’s more popular discount retailers is preparing to build a second location in Surry following the county board of supervisors’ action to approve a rezoning application for the proposed site along Colonial Trail West near Route 40.
Thanks to a 4-1 vote in favor, with Surry Board Vice-Chair Michael Drewry dissenting, two acres of a 13-acre property along Colonial Trail West was formally rezoned from Agricultural-Rural District to General Business for the roughly 7,000-square foot Dollar General store, the second one in the county.
The rezoning request was approved by supervisors despite several residents using their time during last week’s public hearing to speak against the measure, with their comments focused on the perceived negative impact the retailer would have on small businesses in the area, which includes a small convenience store at the corner of Route 10 and 40.
“When a Dollar General store came to the community of Rushmore, it put the nearby convenience store out of business within a short time,” remarked Brian Agor, asking board members to have some consideration for the locally owned convenience store that would approximately 1,000 feet from the new store.
While representatives of that store did not speak during Thursday’s public hearing, another business owner offered support for the local store and discussed the impact a new Dollar General store would have on her and other businesses.
“An unintended consequence of this will be that existing business will be out of business,” Claremont store owner Stephanie Headley said. “These stores cannot compete with corporate America and they will go away and, when they go away, you won’t get them back.”
Headley went on to suggest that this rezoning does not conform with the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which does recommend commercial uses around portions of the Route 10 and Route 40 intersection but, according to county documents, this property would be located “approximately 1,000 feet north” of that intersection, in a portion of the county that the Comprehensive Plan recommends for “agrarian and residential uses.”
For the Claremont business owner and resident, she believes the approval would set a precedent for the Route 10 corridor and the county as a whole.
“It was my impression that the Comprehensive Plan had development focused around the villages, where utilities were available in an effort to avoid strip development,” she said to supervisors, adding that the store would not fill the county’s need for a full-service grocery store.
“When I sell real estate, they want a supermarket, not a Dollar General,” Headley continued. “I wonder if we really need a Dollar General every 15 minutes.”
This Dollar General, which is being constructed by Par3 Development Group, would be one of six stores between Disputanta in Prince George, Waverly, and Wakefield in Sussex, a current location in Surry along Colonial Trail East, and a store in Smithfield.
While officials with Par3 Development Group did not speak to the concerns of residents regarding impact on local businesses in the general vicinity of the new store, they did say construction of the store would bring roughly $1 million of investment into the county and, as part of the construction process, Par3 utilizes hiring local contractors to aid in the building of the new location.
“This new store will provide a benefit to residents who will be able to get everyday items at a reasonable price without having to go outside the county,” Par3 Development Representative Kerry Hutcherson said to supervisors and the audience listening on.
He added that the intersection of Routes 10 and 40 was selected by Dollar General because it conformed with the county’s Comprehensive Plan and recommends commercial uses around the intersection, noting the area across Colonial Trail from their new location is also zoned as General Business, and due to traffic count data and it’s proximity to a major highway intersection.
“This store will also help to broaden your tax base and provided needed employment, which will help boost the local economy,” Hutcherson continued.
Listening on, Surry Planning Director Rhonda Russell also offered some insight to those residents and supervisors who had questions and concerns about the rezoning, noting while the rezoning did adhere to some aspects of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, it did miss some others, such as being roughly 1,000 feet from that Route 10/40 intersection identified in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, it’s important to balance the vision of the community at large while having a keen eye to the patterns of the market.
“It does beg the question: have we accurately sighted commercial uses in this area,” she said. “While some of this is the vision for the community, the market can drive that and we can adjust to those patterns as they develop.”
While questions about the store’s local impact swirled, Drewry, the lone dissenting vote on the rezoning, said he had reservations about the proposal on several fronts, including concerns from citizens in his district who were opposed to the proposed store.
Additionally, Drewry said he was troubled by a lack of details in the proffers for the land that would be rezoned, expressing concern about a scenario of Dollar General opting not to build and another business moves into that rezoning land and the county would have no recourse to intervene.
According to a Surry Planning Commission memo, as part of their recommended approval, Dollar General and Par3 agreed to a series of voluntary proffering as part of the store’s construction tied to the store’s outward appearance, various landscaping elements, and prohibited uses.
“The proffers didn’t specifically refer to what property we were rezoning,” Drewry said. “It was generic enough that I had concerns that it should have been more specific, focusing on the site plan. and the specific project.”
As the vote loomed, supervisors digested words from county staff and residents as they rationalized the proposed rezoning. Carsley District Representative Kenneth Holmes offered his own insights on the proposal, as the new store would rest in the heart of his district once complete.
“We have faced the same situations for hundreds of years as privately-owned operations want to serve the public before a large chain operation comes in,” he said. “It has always been challenging because we want to look out for our own.”
“I get the concept of not wanting a Dollar General every 15 miles but, few people complain about the stores,” Holmes continued. “Growth versus, some other situation, maybe status quo.”
In addition to comments regarding the new store, citizens also expressed concern about the cleanliness of Dollar General’s current store along Colonial Trail East, describing dirty floors, merchandise strewn throughout the store, and overflowing dumpsters at the location.
According to Par3, while they were not part of any construction of that Dollar General store, they did tour the building and take photographs as part of their planning for this new Colonial Trail West location and said the residents’ comments about that store’s appearance have been forwarded to their contact at Dollar General’s corporate offices.
With the rezoning approved, officials with Par3 placed a ballpark figure of one year from now to receive permitting and complete construction of the store, with an anticipated opening during the second half of 2018.
The Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based retailer has been in business for over 75 years and operates over 13,000 stores in 43 states, employing over 120,000 people, and generating over $22 billion in sales in fiscal 2016.
The chain has been in the midst of an expansion over the past five years, opening more locations across the United States as American shopping trends shift more toward smaller discount retailers for everyday household items and select food items.
In a statement earlier this year, Dollar General announced plans to create 10,000 new jobs during 2017 through the opening of over 1,000 new stores and two new distribution centers.
“This year’s continued growth presents numerous opportunities for candidates looking to begin and develop their careers at one of America’s fastest-growing retailers,” said Bob Ravener, Dollar General’s executive vice president and chief people officer. “Candidates should look to Dollar General as a great career choice for numerous factors including our variety of training and development programs, focus on internal advancement within the company and mission of serving others.”
The planned increase will represent a nine-percent overall increase in the company’s workforce and ” the largest one-year employee increase through organic store and distribution center growth” in Dollar General’s 78-year history.