The Catoosa County commissioners have denied a zoning request for a new Dollar General Store on Burning Bush Road after listening to opposition from a number of residents in that community.
The proposed site, at the corner of Burning Bush and Three Notch Road, is currently zoned for C-2, which allows for a 5,000-square-foot or less commercial business. Hibbymo Properties LLC, which is in negotiations to buy the property, requested the change to C-1 so it could erect a building nearly twice that size.
Catoosa County's Planning and Zoning Commission denied the request 5-0 on Aug. 22, and also unanimously denied the request for a parking space variance before the matter came before the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
The project's contractor, Bobby Howard, says Hibbymo Properties plans to purchase two acres from a more than four-and-a-half-acre spot at the intersection in order to accommodate the planned 9,100-square-foot facility.
Howard also said the store wouldn't need the five parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of building, as required in the ordinance.
"These Dollar General Stores just don't need 45 spaces," Howard said. "They don't generate that much traffic, especially in a more rural setting like this. They (Dollar General) have done studies, and 30 parking spaces works for them nationwide. They certainly don't want to lose business because they don't have the parking.
Howard explained that the current C-2 zoning allows for everything from grocery stores to child care facilities, bars, churches; basically any commercial establishment up to 5,000 square feet. He says Dollar General is simply looking to add a nice store to the community, just larger than the zoning allows.
"You can run through the traffic studies and a third to a half of those uses would generate more traffic than a Dollar General would," Howard said.
Howard also claims that putting the store on Burning Bush Road would give folks in that rural area a go-to place for their shopping needs in lieu of traveling to a main road or highway to shop.
"Dollar General has figured out a way to build a building out in a rural setting that lets those folks that live there be able to buy a good amount of general merchandise at a very reasonable price," Howard said. "Folks can have goods and services and products where they don't have to go all the way to a main road."
Hilda Jones, one of the owners selling the property to Hibbymo Properties, said she and her business partner purchased the property in an attempt to protect her adjoining 40 acres from undesirable development.
"We were offered a measure of control as to the construction and operation of the business on the site," she explained. "Therefore, we have chosen upgrades for this construction that are well above existing codes. These choices benefit all of us living in this area. The type of business this will be is an asset to our area and in no way a direct competitor to our long-time neighbors and friends, Jimmy Dean with The Front Porch Market and Jody Napier with Napier's Feed Store."
Jones said she and her business partner, John Cline, could have sold the property years ago, but wanted to have a say in how the property would be developed.
Jimmy Dean, who owns The Front Porch Market directly across the street, says he often gets shoppers wishing they could buy milk or bread in that area.
"We can't keep it like it is forever, it has got to change," Dean said. "We need a grocery store there. I think it'd be a benefit to my business, think it'd be a benefit to the community, and I think the people that are opposing it will be the first ones in there within a year."
Although some were in favor of the endeavor, a number of residents, many of whom also voiced their concerns with Planning and Zoning last month, were in attendance at the Sept. 19 meeting to again make their opposition known.
"I live very close to that proposed land and I'd much rather drive a little bit further to the one on the main road than have one right there among us," said Jim Webb. "I would encourage that we should embrace the idea of preserving what makes this part of the county a little bit unique."
Resident Nathan Smith says he realizes a store could still be built on the site, but doesn't want to see the area become commercialized.
"We understand that a 5,000-square-foot-or-less Dollar General could be built there now, it's the changing from C-2 zoning to C-1," he said. "A lot of us bought houses in that area for that very reason, to get away from traffic and commercialization."
Ultimately, Commissioner Jim Cutler motioned to follow the recommendation of Planning and Zoning and deny the rezoning request, which was met with a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Bobby Winters didn't vote either way in the matter and expressed his frustration with the vote at the end of the meeting.
"Another thing about the general store, the Dollar Store...that thing will bring in more taxes and sales tax than if they put five or six houses out there in the field. That store would help the citizens about their property tax. That's the reason we need to work on businesses...I don't care what Planning and Zoning says, the buck stops right here."