A developer’s plans to build a Dollar General store at the southwest corner of South State Road 47 and C.R. 600S suffered a setback Wednesday as the Montgomery County Plan Commission gave an unfavorable recommendation to rezoning the land.
Following a public hearing where about 10 residents expressed their concerns, the board voted 6-0 to recommend the Board of Commissioners reject the rezone request. The commissioners are expected to have the final say in January.
A representative for the developer, Missouri-based Overland Group, faced questions from the board about why the intersection was selected for the proposed store, as residents and retired firefighters testified about the dangers posed to traffic.
“To be perfectly honest, the easiest answer is: it’s in a location that would serve four different directions and quite frankly the people that own [the land] were willing to sell it,” said Ty Eshleman, a professional land surveyor for Chamlin & Associates in Morris, Illinois.
Property records show the 2-½ acre parcel of farm ground is owned by Mitchell Land LLC. Eshleman said he didn’t know if developers had considered any other land.
Overland — which has built at least one other Dollar General store in South Dakota and several Family Dollar stores — strives to work with surrounding landowners to alleviate concerns, Eshleman said.
He presented the results of a traffic study commissioned by Overland that determined the intersection does not have enough traffic to warrant any new turn lanes on 600 or 47, and that the store would not cause substantial traffic backups.
Area residents disputed those findings.
“I mean no disrespect in any way, but your traffic survey means nothing,” said Ken Rice, who lives on 600 about two miles from the intersection. “It’s a lot different when you live there.”
Rice, who retired from the New Market Community Volunteer Fire Department, responded to car wrecks at the intersection. A Southmont Jr. High School student died following a crash at the corner in 2001.
“These were my local people I was cutting out of cars here. I don’t want to see any more,” Rice said. “My eyes have seen things that you cannot erase that I will not talk about… the worst thing is, come here a kid scream while you’re trying to cut them out of that car.”
I guarantee you, that five-minute job of cutting them out — in your mind, it took you an hour when that little child was screaming,” Rice said. “On that one, thank God the car seat worked, the child wasn’t hurt — just scared.”
Residents repeatedly cited a goal in the county’s comprehensive plan that calls for “protecting and enhancing” land-based natural resources, including “prime farm ground.” The comprehensive plan calls for agricultural land use in the targeted area.
“This isn’t about the needs monetarily or who can buy a bag of chips. It’s about protecting our way of life,” said Deb Barowsky, who lives on 600 about a mile from the intersection.
Barowsky started a petition at Bal-Hinch Country Store that garnered more than 340 signatures against the rezone request.
Bal-Hinch owner Ressa Conkright, whose parents live just off of 600, said her business would not likely suffer because it carries bait, tackle and other items not sold by Dollar General.
“I’m not worried about our store,” Conkright said. “I’m worried about my parents trying to get off of that road, and me when I visit every day and all of these people that I’ve known all my life.”
In his report to the board, building and zoning administrator Marc Bonwell said while the comprehensive plan does not envision a retail store at the intersection, the store would have minimal impact on agriculture and would not substantially impact property values.
However, the department recommended an unfavorable vote based on drainage issues and the overall character of the area.
“Generally, the plan contemplates retail in and around the limits of the towns and city,” Bonwell said.
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