An application for variances to allow Dollar General to erect a 9,100 square foot store at the corner of Nix Bridge and Harmony Church road was denied in a final vote by the Dawson County Planning Commission last week.
Under the current zoning of commercial community business, the developers could build up to a 5,000 square foot store with 46 parking spaces. The application asked for variations for a 9,100 square foot store with 33 parking spaces.
Bobby Howard of Cartersville, who is representing Dollar General, stated in his application that he asked for the variances because the planning staff recommended that he do so instead of rezoning the property to commercial highway business.
Howard stated in the 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 property owner, Greg Hayes, who along with his father and cousin bought the property and surrounding acreage in the early 2000s, spoke in favor of the application at the Feb. 21 meeting.
"We realized when buying the property that it was an old dated property and eventually we would rebuild or someone else would," Hayes said. "We've been lucky to have good tenants such as the Wingmen Motorcycle Club...but it's time to close that chapter of this property and improve this site."
Fourteen people spoke in opposition of the application, all residents of the area who did not want the store to be built at all.
Comments ranged from concerns that the Dollar General would bring more road safety hazards, increase crime rates, be a constant source of unnatural light, become an eyesore in a residential neighborhood, decrease property values, ruin quality of life, increase lake pollution to the possibility of disturbing the dispatch of the fire station located across the street.
A common statement from the opposition was that there is a Dollar General two miles from the proposed location on Nix Bridge Road. The nearest Dollar General is 2.7 miles away, on Hwy. 53 East.
Sarah Stowers, who lives across from the site, said she moved to Dawson County to enjoy the quality of life that the county touts.
"This Dollar General is a perfect example of excess," Stowers said. "If it is allowed to go in the size that [Howard] wants it, it is a perfect example of excess. That is not what this county is about...this county was built on rural backbones, on quality."
During the discussion, Planning Commissioner Emory Dooley asked if a similar variance had not already been approved by the board for the same applicant. Planning Commission Chairman Jason Hamby confirmed that it had, but that the store has a "different demographic."
The same developers are indeed building a similar Dollar General in Dawsonville where Hwy. 183 meets Hwy. 136 near Afton Road.
In October Howard applied for a zoning change for the 5.25 acre lot to be rezoned from residential agricultural to commercial community business. The application was approved by the Dawson County Board of Commissioners in December.
Howard also submitted an application for variances to allow him to build a 9,100 square foot store with 30 parking spaces on the property, still outside of the allowed 5,000 square feet and 46 parking spaces for commercial community business zoning. The variance was approved by the planning commission in November.
Dooley motioned to approve the variance for the Nix Bridge property for the purpose of continuity, but with no second the motion died.
After some concerns about crime and traffic safety voiced by planning commissioners Neil Hornsey and John Maloney, commissioner Tim Bennett motioned that the application be denied so as not to set a precedent of putting larger buildings on smaller acreage.
Maloney seconded and the variances were denied 3-2, with Dooley and Hornsey voting against the motion.
Though the decision by the planning commission is final, the applicant can still follow procedure to appeal the decision.
If built, a Nix Bridge Road Dollar General would be the fifth in the county.