Planners oppose proposed store

FRONT ROYAL – A local developer faces strong opposition to a proposal to build a Dollar General store in Warren County.

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 Wednesday to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny JMB Investment Company LLC’s request to rezone land on Strasburg Road near Front Royal from agricultural to commercial use. Knoxville, Tennessee-based JMB proposes to build a 9,100-square-foot, Dollar General at 1453 Strasburg Road (Va. 55). The property owned by Vicki Townsend includes a single-family home.

More than a dozen people, including the owners of the nearby Henry’s Grocery, spoke during the public hearing on the rezoning and urged the commission to not support the rezoning. No one spoke in favor of the rezoning. Opponents and county staff have raised concerns about the traffic potentially generated by the store, a lack of public utilities for the site and its impact on nearby small businesses.

Commissioner Lorraine Smelser said allowing a Dollar General on agricultural land would set a precedent and open up Strasburg Road to more development. Chairman Robert E. Myers said the existing home on the site would generate 10 vehicle trips per day and no store could survive on that number, so a Dollar General would have to attract more traffic.

Commissioner Ralph Rinaldi questioned how delivery trucks would enter and exit the site along Strasburg Road.

“As far as brand loyalty, we’ve had 13 speakers,” Rinaldi said. “I don’t think Dollar General is gonna be impacted by 13 less customers.”

Lisa Salazar owns Henry’s Grocery, 1181 Strasburg Road. The store has been in her family for 30 years. Salazar said she didn’t come before the commission when other larger retail stores came into the area over past 16 years. But Salazar said the site on Strasburg Road isn’t a good spot for a Dollar General and likely could cause home values to drop.

“Honestly, how many people want to live next to a Dollar General store?” Salazar said. “Ultimately, I don’t believe that any small business can compete against the buying power and sales of a multi-billion dollar company in a residential community.”

Salazar and several speakers who live near Henry’s said a Dollar General would attract more traffic to that area of Strasburg Road. Nancy Getren and others said the increased traffic would make it more difficult for residents to enter Strasburg Road.

Planning Director Taryn Logan advised commissioners that commercial use of the site would not conform to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and the rezoning would encourage strip development along Va. 55. The Department of Planning and Zoning report notes that the Economic Development Authority has offered to look for other sites for JMB, but the applicant has not been receptive to changing locations. The Virginia Department of Transportation determined that the entrance does not currently meet sight-distance requirements.

Front Royal attorney Robert Light spoke on behalf of JMB and refuted claims that a Dollar General would not fit in with the area. Light said the county zoning ordinance contemplates a commercial use similar to a Dollar General, identified as a country general store.

“As opposed to something like a big-box retailer, Dollar General is not a destination site,” Light said. “Dollar Generals are typically used by the immediate neighborhood.”

Any concerns raised by VDOT need not be addressed as part of the rezoning, Light said. JMB understands the project can’t move forward without obtaining the commercial entrance approval from VDOT, he added. A proffer statement filed with the rezoning application notes that JMB will design and build a left turn lane from Va. 55 West into the property.

Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the rezoning request at their Jan. 20 meeting, according to Logan.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com