Impact of Dollar General concerns Lisai

‘Lucky I didn’t see a meat counter or a deli,” said Lisai’s Grocery store owner Lonnie Lisai, after viewing the Dollar General’s interior plan Monday night, Dec. 12. “There’s a lot of overlap” between what his store offers and what a new 9,100-square-foot Dollar General would offer, he added. “About 90% (overlap) … aside from the meat.”
What he had been viewing, during the Chester Development Review Board’s continuing public hearing on Dollar General’s conditional use permit, was a plan that contains between 600 and 780 linear feet on racks 6.5 feet high with grocery items similar to what he sells. That does not include the cases of cooler space on the side. By comparison, a football field is 300 feet long.
Lisai added that he was all for business competition but that this seemed unfair. The remaining space is taken up by clothes, housewares, paint, electrical and automotive supplies, toys, pet accessories, electronics, balloons, party goods, gift wraps and stationary.

Claudio Veliz, a local architect and member of Smart Growth Chester, which is opposing this proposal, told the DRB that the Dollar General store site plans are in error, that where the plans point north is neither true north nor magnetic north. He added that the true siting makes a difference since the southeast side of the roof will stay in sun and melt while the northwest half will not, creating “an asymmetrical snow load,” potentially racking the structure.

But much of the evening was spent by DG representatives addressing changes to the exterior of the plan: removing faux shutters and faux side windows and offering a putty colored clapboard siding, requesting the option of changing it to vinyl before construction. They also showed the DRB the front brick facade and black standing seam metal roof they hope to use and said they would propose installing a sprinkler system.

Board member Dan Ferguson continued to express concern over the pitch of the roof, calling it “weak.” “Any reason why it can’t be steeper?” he asked.
Dollar General reps also returned with plans to address the flooding issue presented by opponents at the last meeting. Chris Ponessi of Speath Engineering said they would build a “berm of 9 inches to a foot” as well as fill in the back portion of the site – toward Lovers Lane Brook – by a foot to 18 inches “to protect from flood waters.” He added that slab would be 1.5 to 3 feet above grade. Ponessi said they’ve also decided to bury the propane tanks – either two 500-gallon tanks or one 1,000-gallon tank – for safety and aesthetics.

Board chief Peter Hudkins then asked Matt Casey of the developer, the Zaremba Group, if he returned with several items requested at the last meeting:
Demographics of the area that made DG think Chester was a good fit? Casey replied that this was proprietary information.
A marketing study that would indicate what would sell? Casey again replied that this was proprietary.  A merchandizing plan? Casey replied that this was basically the interior floor plan that he submitted.
Hudkins then asked why a representative of Dollar General did not come to Chester as asked “or are they proprietary, too?” Casey said his company was hired to represent DG and is passing along all questions.

Hudkins also asked about the number of Dollar Generals that have closed. But after Casey said they can’t determine the reasons the stores close, Shawn Cunningham* of Smart Growth Chester said that according to the chain’s SEC filings, in 2010, 600 new stores opened, 56 closed and 504 were either remodeled or relocated.
During public comment, store owner Michele Bargfrede asked, “How many (Dollar General) stores are in Vermont and what is their success rate?” And Diane Holme read from the Town Plan: “Does it appear from objective evidence, expert opinion, public opinion or common sense that the proposed use in the area proposed will be good for Chester and the majority of its residents?”

She continued, “To build the same store here when Dollar General has a store in Springfield, less than 10 miles away, does not seem like common sense. There is also a similar store, Family Dollar, even closer. There is an above-average chance that the proposed Dollar General store in Chester would not be able to sustain the desired profit margin.”
The meeting was then cut short when DRB member Harry Goodell, who is also the town fire chief, was called away on an emergency. Both Smart Growth Chester and the Dollar General representatives have been asked to return to the next DRB meeting with more information. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, at Chester Town Hall on Elm Street.
*Cynthia Prairie is married to Shawn Cunningham.

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Filed Under: Business & Personal FinanceDollar General

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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