Bethel Twp. residents still fighting proposed dollar store

2:15 p.m Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 Politics
The old Fort Tecumseh penny candy store at the intersection of U.S. 40 west and Tecumseh Road. Bill Lackey/Staff

A group of Bethel Twp. residents continue to speak out against a proposed Dollar General at the site of a former historic penny candy store, but a township trustee said there’s nothing officials could’ve done to stop the project.

The group sent certified letters to both Clark County commissioners and Bethel Twp. trustees last week expressing their displeasure about the plan.

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The group has spoken to at least 300 residents and collected more than 110 signatures of residents who live nearby who oppose the project, said Bethel Twp. resident Charlotte Fogarty, who lives nearby on U.S. 40. In the letters, the group told both county and township officials it will vote against the leaders they believe aren’t properly representing them.

A rezoning for the proposed two-acre Dollar General store at 5550 W. National Road was approved by county commissioners in August by a 2-1 vote with the stipulation that the development perform a review of traffic and safety before it can proceed with construction. Clark County Commissioners Lowell McGlothin and Melanie Flax Wilt each voted in favor of the rezoning, while Commissioner Rick Lohnes voted against it.

Residents believe the proposed store will lead to decreased property values, more traffic and accidents at the intersection and more crime in the area, Fogarty said.

“We don’t want a dollar store there,” she said.

She doesn’t believe Bethel Twp. trustees fought hard enough to stop the project many residents don’t want, she said. Mad River Twp. trustees are still actively fighting against the Enon Sand and Gravel quarry, Fogarty said. She also believes many residents won’t shop there.

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“Everybody is very upset about this,” she said.

The site is the former Fort Tecumseh Olde Fashun Store, which closed in 2012. Once the land is zoned business, government officials can’t tell another business it can’t go in there, Bethel Twp. trustee Nancy Brown said.

“There was really nothing anyone could do in this situation,” she said. “It’s not that we wanted it there. We were neutral. We can’t get involved in that because we don’t have our own zoning. Unless something is really, really egregious, we try to stay neutral. There was nothing the county could do about this. It was already a business location.”

If the entrance to the store is off North Tecumseh Road, multiple accidents could occur there, nearby resident Gary Cox said. He’s concerned about truck traffic entering and exiting the parking lot throughout the day on a road with a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit in a residential area.

“There’s going to be more accidents than you can shake a stick at,” Cox said. “I see it as a definite hazard and I don’t think they understand. … It can be a drag strip at times.”

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The zoning request was made by Nashville-based GBT Realty, which sought to develop a similar store in 2015. The developer told officials it could build the store on the one-acre property if the rezoning was denied but it would have been more expensive.

Brown said she wouldn’t want to live near a Dollar Store either but said there’s no way to stop the store from operating in that location.

“There was nothing anyone can do,” Brown said. “The business had been there for decades.”

Clark County Commissioner Lowell McGlothin has heard from residents who are in favor of doing something at the vacant structure, he said.

“A lot of of people think it’s a good idea to clean that corner up, not necessarily that it’s a Dollar General,” McGlothin said. “We don’t know if that’s going to happen yet. There are still a lot of hoops that they have to go through so we’ll wait and see what happens. … I’m sure if it comes to fruition that people will shop there because it’s going to be very convenient for people who live in that area.”

Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt she didn’t believe the issue was newsworthy.

The rezoning for the store planned at the corner of West National and North Tecumseh roads was approved by both the Clark County Planning Commission and the Clark County Rural Zoning Commission in June. County planners didn’t respond to phone calls from the Springfield News-Sun to check if building permits had been filed for the project.

If built, the West National Road location would be the 10th Dollar General in Clark County.

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