Plan for Route 7 Dollar General store updated
FERRISBURGH — The owners of a Route 7 parcel and their representatives on Wednesday submitted to the Ferrisburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment a revised plan for what one of them called a “discount department store.” The 9.9-acre tract lies across the highway from the new solar farm near the intersection with Monkton Road.
About 20 people attended the second of two public hearings on a plan for a 10,000-square-foot, one-story, metal-sided and roofed Dollar General store, which the developers hope will be the first of three stores on the site.
Developers said the Dollar General chain of stores — there are other outlets around Vermont, including in Richford, Barre, Colchester, Springfield, Lyndon and Milton — does not sell most of its goods for a dollar. Rather, they said, the stores sell a mix of hardware, clothing and groceries at competitive prices. The company on its web site describes itself as a “small-box discount retailer.” Real estate agent Mark Thibeault described Dollar Generals as general stores.
“It’s like going into a Woolworth’s of the ’50s or ’60s,” he said.
Property co-owner Joe Handy said he had a 10-year lease deal with a 10-year renewal option with the storeowner. Developers said they expected local consumers to shop at Dollar General, which would employ a dozen and could add $600,000 to Ferrisburgh’s grand list, instead of making trips to Chittenden County.
Some of those in the audience questioned the project based on the appearance of the building and its impact on an existing traffic problem with nearby Reed Road.
“This looks like a warehouse,” said neighbor Elizabeth Markowski. “Does a warehouse fit in with the town plan? Visually, I have a problem with the look of this on the corner.”
Retail is conditionally permitted in the Highway Commercial zone there, meaning the stores are permissible, but the zoning board may attach conditions to the permit. Conditions might typically include provisions for landscaping, lighting, hours of operation, building design and placement, and parking and other site plan requirements.
The zoning board may also determine if a project has an adverse impact on its neighborhood and the character of the area, and whether a project complies with Ferrisburgh’s town plan.
The applicants are seeking specific approval for the Dollar General store, and conceptual approval for two more stores. The zoning board would have to issue further permits for the future stores, which developers said would resemble the first building in size and design.
The developers said they have a state permit for a septic system adequate for three 10,000-square-foot retail stores. Handy said there are no deals in place for the other stores, but a possibility is one that would rent and sell equipment and appliances.
Those speaking on behalf of the project also included Trudell Consulting Engineers President Jeremy Matosky. He said traffic data was supplied and changes in the building design made to answer board concerns raised after an initial hearing on Oct. 6.
“We’ve tried to take those community concerns regarding aesthetics and tried to improve that,” said Matosky of the building.
Proposed changes included replacing its flat roof with a gable-end roof and adding a cupola to make it look more like a barn. The building will be set back about 250 feet from Route 7.
Not all in attendance were sold on its looks, or on the positive impact of the entire project.
“I’m concerned this is Phase One of a project that would have two more big box stores,” said neighbor Gary Lange.
Matosky said it was not fair to call the stores big boxes.
“Your typical box store would start at 50,000 square feet and go up from there ... These are not large stores by any stretch of the imagination,” Matosky said.
But resident Judy Chaves contrasted the building’s look to Denecker Chevrolet across Monkton Road, Dakin Farms on Route 7, and the new Small City Market on West Main Street in Vergennes.
All are much more attractive, Chaves said, and the zoning board should insist on a better building.
“It may not be a big box store, but it is a box store,” she said. “If people give it a little care and thought, they can do it well. This will have a long-range impact on the four corners. I urge the board to ask for more in terms of aesthetics.”
Another unidentified attendee asked if the construction was the “cheapest per square foot commercial construction available.”
Matosky said he was not qualified to answer that question, but the proposed Ferrisburgh Dollar General store was an improved version of one recently built in Richford that one passed an Act 250 aesthetic review.
“There are a lot of barns in Richford that look a lot like this,” Matosky said.
The main traffic issue focused on Reed Road, a small town road off the north side of Monkton Road that serves as access to Denecker Chevrolet and at least one home, Lange’s.
Dealership owner Tom Denecker and Lange said traffic backs up from the light at Route 7 and blocks the road. The proposed access to Dollar General is further east on Monkton Road, and Denecker and Lange said they are concerned the extra traffic will make the situation worse.
Denecker said he hoped developers would cooperate.
“People don’t stop to let people into Reed Road,” he said. “There’s definitely going to be more congestion.”
Matosky said the traffic analysis showed an extra peak hour volume of 47 trips, not enough for the Agency of Transportation to mandate a study or to make an impact at Reed Road.
“We analyzed the 47 new trips at peak hour, and it made a negligible difference,” Matosky said.
But zoning board chairwoman Charlene Stavenow said she expected developers to deal with the issue.
“We need to find a solution,” Stavenow said. “I think that will be a point to address with your plan ... This has been a chronic problem.”
Matosky said it wasn’t his clients’ problem.
“It doesn’t require an applicant to fix an existing situation ... Fixing Reed Road would be a town issue,” Matosky said.
Resident Bob McNary suggested that the project driveway could be moved further east, and that VTrans might be persuaded to let the light stay on green a little longer at peak hours to allow the Monkton Road back-up to clear out.
Matosky said the driveway could be moved back, and agreed to talk to state officials about the light.
The hearing was recessed until Dec. 1. The board will make a site visit, and then resume hearing testimony and reviewing the proposal at 7:05 p.m.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.