While many large retailers are struggling, Dollar General, which operates 34 stores in Vermont, is not.
But as the Tennessee-based company plans to open 900 new locations this fiscal year, many local residents in Pittsford, Vermont are fighting to make sure their town is not one.
The discount chain reported an 11 percent net sales increase in the third quarter of last year to the tune of $5.9 billion.
Vermont project developer, Pittsford BTS Retail, wants to construct a discount store on 2.78 acres of property on the corner of Route 7 and Plains road. Frank von Turkovich, a Montpelier attorney owns the land.
If approved, the new store would be a stone’s throw from Keith’s Country Store and less than a half mile north of Kamuda’s Country Market, where Pittsford resident Jed Byrom was picking up groceries.
“I have no interest in seeing a Dollar General here,” said Byrom. “There’s a Dollar General in Rutland and I think there’s one in Middlebury. There seems to be no shortage of Dollar Generals and I would be sad to see it here,” he added.
While there is not currently a Dollar General in Middlebury, there are two in Rutland.
Byrom believes the discount chain would hurt local businesses, like Kamuda’s and Keith’s, and detract from the character of the village.
But Jean Burke disagrees and thinks the discount store would bring jobs and much needed new business to the community.
Plus, she said she could walk to the proposed Dollar General and not have to drive to Rutland. “It’s just convenient and there are things they have there that I couldn’t get in this town.”
Burke went on, “I’m on a very fixed income; my mother’s on a fixed income, she’s in her 80's; and it’s reasonably priced, and I want to see ‘em [Dollar General] come.”
Before the store can be built, however, the developer needs Act 250 approval, permits from various state agencies and the go-ahead from Pittsford’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, which held a second meeting on the proposal Monday night.
Nearly 40 people attended, many voicing concerns over traffic safety.
Because the proposed entrance to the store would be on a residential street that feeds into Route 7, several residents argued it would significantly increase traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods. This was a problem they explained, because there are two day cares nearby, as well as several school bus stops.
Other residents brought in photographs of delivery truck traffic at Dollar General stores in Rutland and questioned the developer’s assertion that there would be only one semi-trailer delivery a week.
Using the developers own diagrams, Pittsford resident Tharon Malay pointed out how large trucks would have difficulty navigating the turnoff from Route 7 as well as the store’s own entrance and parking lot.
Several people at the meeting suggested ways the developer might address that, which prompted Pittsford resident Rishi Connelly to weigh in.
“This application... this current diagram... what they’re presenting doesn’t work,” said Connelly.
“So why are we trying to it make work for them? They have a job to make it work. But it doesn’t work,” she said to applause.
Developers countered that they’ve worked hard to take local concerns into account and have adapted their plans accordingly. This is not a prototypical store said one.
As part of the proposal, they said the end of Plains Road would be straightened somewhat to make its intersection with Rt 7 more perpendicular and thus safer.
Project manger, Abigail Dery, said the proposed parking lot design is used by many Dollar Generals and is well-tested, but she said it could be adjusted if needed.
After the meeting, Dave Cooper, an attorney for the developer, said he was surprised by the amount of local push back considering the site is zoned for retail development.
“You know this is precisely what the town planners have decided they want, in the location that they want it. So we think this is a good project,” he said, adding, “We’re proposing improvements to the road network and to the intersection that’s been a problem for the town and this would be taken care of as part of the project.”
Nonetheless, members of Pittsford’s Zoning Board said they have lingering questions and concerns.
They’ve scheduled a site visit and follow up meeting for March 26.