Residents fought a hard battle, but last week the Dawson County Board of Commissioners approved variances for a Dollar General Store set to go in at the corner of Harmony Church Road and Nix Bridge Road in Dawsonville.
Developer Bobby Howard asked for variances for a larger store and decreased parking spaces at the property, which is zoned commercial community business, in January.
According to code, Howard could build up to a 5,000 square foot building with the required 46 parking spaces per each occupant and not need a vote from the planning board. Howard asked for 9,100 square feet and 33 parking spaces for his one-occupant building.
Howard stated in his application that "Dollar General only needs 30 parking spaces to provide adequate parking" because shoppers aren't as numerous as convenience store shoppers and don't stay as long as grocery shoppers, and that "extra parking would be less safe and would unnecessarily pave over areas that could be landscaped."
The requests were denied by the planning commission on Feb. 21, after which Howard appealed the decision and it was sent to the Board of Commissioners on April 6.
Howard had since made changes to his plans, which included moving the entrance to the store from Nix Bridge Road to Harmony Church Road.
At the April 6 meeting, neighbors of the property pleaded with the commission not to approve the variances. After several voiced their opposition to the store going in at all due to fears of a decline in property values, proximity to a fire station and increased traffic in the area, District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby made a motion to approve the variances. The Dollar General will be located within Hamby's district.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines motioned to approve the variances with several stipulations.
The stipulations are for the developer to move the street entrance of the store from Nix Bridge Road to Harmony Church Road to alleviate traffic concerns brought up by neighbors; to utilize lighting that will not bleed off the property lines; to ensure the building aesthetics conform to the surrounding area and adhere to 400 guidelines; to have landscaping on Nix Bridge Road shield the building's side; to exclude the sale of merchandise outside of the store; and to shield carts with locked containment units and gates on the dumpster and cart containers.
The motion was approved 3-0, with District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett absent.
Gaines said that he supported approving the larger store because it allowed the board to have some control over the use of the commercial lot.
"Something was going to go there," Gaines said last week. "We had leverage because [the developer] needed something from us, so we tried to mitigate the concerns that the citizens had with stipulations."
Gaines further explained that had the developer wished to put in a 5,000 square foot building, the issue would not have needed to come before any of the county boards. The developer could have built up to a 30,000 square foot building, as long as it was divided into six occupants.
The commission also made a point during the meeting to illustrate that as the property is already zoned commercial, the future land use plan has no bearing on how the property can legally be used.
"The future land use plan does recognize this property as being residential. Because it is already zoned, it is kind of immune to the future land use plan in that if they wanted to rezone the property to commercial, the recommendation would certainly be denial because it does not fit the future land use plan," explained Planning and Development Director Jason Streetman. "Because it is already zoned it goes beyond that...the challenge of this board is- is a 9,100 square foot building appropriate?"