By Alex Bridges
MOUNT JACKSON - The town could soon add another retail shop on Main Street.
Family Dollar plans to build a new location at 5454 Main St., on the former site of a landscaping company. Hammond Real Estate has filed a request for a special-use permit needed to build on the site.
The Planning Commission heard a presentation on the proposal earlier this week and authorized staff to set the request for a joint public hearing with Town Council in December.
The commission voted to have town staff set the permit request for a public hearing on Dec. 2. The hearing will be held jointly with Town Council. The commission may then forward the request to council with a recommendation. Council could take action Dec. 10.
Hammond Real Estate also has requested variances from the requirements for rear yards and front landscaping. The developer has asked for a variance of 4.3 feet or less from the 20-foot requirement for rear yards and a 16.2 variance from the 20-foot width in the front of the building. The variance request goes before the Board of Zoning Appeals for a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The developer needs the variances to complete the conditions of the special-use permit.
Nathan Blackwell, principal civil engineer with Harrisonburg-based Blackwell Engineering, said the property has been for sale for a while. Family Dollar has shown an interest in buying the property to locate a store on the site.
A landscaping and nursery business most recently operated on the site that lies south of the Sheetz gas station and a 7-Eleven.
Engineers tried to design the site and keep the existing entrance. However, Family Dollar uses full-size, tractor-trailers for deliveries. While engineers found a way to fit the store and trucks on the site, the Virginia Department of Transportation asked engineers to move the entrance north and line up with a business across Main Street, Blackwell said.
Town zoning and development requirements make it difficult for engineers to fit the standard Family Dollar store on the site, Blackwell explained. Engineers had to put the building as close to the street as they could under the restrictions. The design as proposed gives engineers as much room in the back of the property.
Plans call for improvements to the existing storm-drain system, a replacement sidewalk and grass strip along Main Street. The sidewalk will the handicapped-accessible and would connect to the store. The entrance lies on the north side of the store.
Designers included elements on the side facing Main Street to simulate a storefront, Blackwell said, such as faux windows. The rear of the store, which faces south, would include evergreen bushes to shield the climate control systems from view by northbound traffic.
Commissioners discussed the colors, outside ductwork and other exterior features.
Assistant Town Manager Charles "Charlie" Moore said the engineers worked with town staff on the design of the site.
"They've gone a long way with us in making this a brick building," Moore said.
Mount Jackson's zoning and Main Street goals for development in business districts call for buildings to sit closer to sidewalks, Moore said.
The permit has not yet gone to public hearing but the design already attracted opposition.
Local resident and architect Gerald Forsburg referred to the similar building arrangement of the Dollar General, calling it "the worst possible thing Mount Jackson could have done putting a front entrance on the side or anywhere else other than Main Street."
"That is not conducive to a historic town," Forsburg said. "A family dollar - it is what it is. But you should put the entrance facing Main Street. That's what Main Street is."
Forsburg pointed out that northbound motorists would see the rear of the store and the roof.
"Putting Main Street properties with front entrances facing any place other than Main Street is ridiculous," Forsburg said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org