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Rezoning sparks discussion from county committee

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 7/23/22

There was much back and forth between several county commissioners and a developer for Dollar General at Tuesday night’s Bedford County Rules and Legislative Committee meeting.  

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Rezoning sparks discussion from county committee

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There was much back and forth between several county commissioners and a developer for Dollar General at Tuesday night’s Bedford County Rules and Legislative Committee meeting.  

A rezoning suggestion was brought before the committee with a favorable recommendation from Bedford County Planning Commission to rezone roughly 3 acres at the northeast section of the intersection with Highway 41A North and 270 (Old Columbia Road) for a proposed site for a new Dollar General.  

This is near the Shell gas station and Boyce Livestock barns. Garrett Auto and Garrett Wrecker are two commercial properties near the site. There is one Dollar General four miles north in Unionville and another four miles south in El Bethel from this site.  

“This is a land use issue,” said zoning director Chris White. The committee voted on whether it is appropriate for the site to be rezoned from agriculture to commercial.  

“It has nothing to do with the Dollar General. That’s the pretense from zoning—you’re looking at does it meet the commercial zoning for that area,” said Bedford County Commissioner Linda Yockey who sites on the planning commission.  

“That’s what got us into a lawsuit before,” said Commissioner Anita Epperson.  

However, Commissioner Greg Vick threw a series of questions at the developer, Monte Turner, who was present at the meeting.  

Dollar General is a publicly traded company, which has revenues of $27 billion. They have 19,000 stores throughout the nation as they had an initiative to build 1,000 stores every year for the last four or five years, according to Turner. Vick said there are 897 stores in Tennessee with eight stores in Bedford County.  

Vick referenced a study from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which said, “Dollar stores fill a need in cash strapped communities. Growing evidence suggests these stores are not nearly by-products of economic distress; they are a cause of it.” For example, they trigger the closure of grocery stores and eliminate jobs.  

Vick cited that statistics show that when dollar stores come in, grocery stores lose almost 30 percent of their business.  

Vick also said dollar stores are “crime magnets.” Cities like Birmingham, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Cleveland, Fort Worth, and even locally in Bell Buckle have said they do not want any more Dollar General stores due to higher crime rates they allegedly bring, Vick said.  

“Do you try to target African American neighborhoods to build these? Or poor neighborhoods?... Studies are saying that’s where most of these stores are being located,” said Vick.  

“Not to my knowledge,” Turner said. “We go into high income areas, low-income areas, middle income areas—wherever there’s a need for convenience shopping.”  

Turner said he as the developer buys the land, develops it, then leases the property to Dollar General. He pays the property taxes and is then reimbursed by Dollar General. Vick said Dollar General is on the tax roll, paying $3,712 annually.  

“Maybe we should calculate the sales tax we bring to the County,” said Turner.  

“I’m on the build side. I’m not on the operations side,” said Turner, who said he has developed 300 of these stores across middle Tennessee.  

Vick added, “I am terribly, terribly conflicted on this. I have a real problem on approving a rezoning for a Dollar General to go in there because of the proximity it is to the Two-Way Market, to the location of the highways going through there, to the crime it’s going to bring to the city, to the economic distress we’re going to have, to the creation of more food deserts . . . . It wipes out opportunity for people to have fresh food.”  

Commissioner Linda Yockey, who sits on the planning commission, added that if this Dollar General did get approved, that she requests it should look like the Dollar General in Lynchburg. 

Commissioner Janice Brothers, who represents that district, said, “The constituents that have called me are favorable.”  

Commissioner Jason Sanders, who lives near the site area and also represents the district, said, “I don’t see an issue with it...if they would make it more presentable. The one in El Bethel is horrible; I’m just being honest. It’s hard to get out. It’s hard to get in. It’s dangerous . . . . So the only thing that scares me is that is a bad intersection too, right at the intersection of 270.”  

The commissions will have the opportunity to examine details of the site plan once the zoning has been approved. White added that it is required for the store to have a zoning buffer (like a shrubbery or a fence) around the property if surrounding lots are zoned differently.  

Part of the site is owned by Robert A. Boyce. His wife, Claire, said at the meeting, “In the first place, you’ve got a junk car lot on one side. You’ve got a service station on the other side. You’ve got truckers on this side . . . .We’re wanting something nice. We’re not out here to throw crap out there. If we didn’t think it was nice, we wouldn’t be willing to sell.”  

Boyce added that she has talked to several residents of the area, especially a few older residents, who said they would be “tickled to death” to have a store that’s nearby.  

The committee voted to pass the rezoning on to the Board of Commissioners. That meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 9. 

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