A Dollar General may be coming to the St. John community.
During a May 18 meeting, Gadsden County commissioners voted to adopt an ordinance that approves a small-scale comprehensive plan for a future land use map amendment.
This amendment will change the zoning of a two-and-a-half acre property that is located on the east side of Bainbridge Highway, near the intersection of Hutchinson Ferry Road.
According to the plan, this property will be changed from an agriculture zoning to a commercial zoning, despite the planning commission voting 8-0 to recommend that the board not adopt the ordinance last year.
One of the reasons the planning commission voted the future land use amendment down previously was because the proposed site was located at, or almost directly across from, the intersection with Hutchinson Ferry Road, where there have been several fatal accidents.
When voting down the plan last year, the planning commissioners stated traffic in the area was dangerous, and there wasn’t enough time to allow drivers to slow down, along with a grocery list of other reasons.
In the recent amendment, a request has been made to allow a retail store to be constructed at the intersection, and a Dollar General Store was proposed.
Citizen Derrick Elias went before the board on behalf of his mother Ruby Mitchell, who lives directly across the street from the property in mention.
Elias said his mother, some of his family, and many other people do not want a store popping up at that intersection.
“You open the door to destroy country living, as we call it, if you approve this proposal tonight,” Elias said.
Elias said he’s not opposing the store, but he is opposing the store being located directly in front of his mother’s house, adding that the proposed Dollar General is incompatible with the surrounding area.
Elias also presented the commissioners with 85 signed petitions of people who live in the St. John community, all in opposition of the future land use map amendment.
Attorney David Theriaque, who was representing Teramore Development – the company contracted to develop the property – said Teramore Development had already agreed to buy Elias’ mother’s property for $350,000.
“The only reason that Mr. Elias is opposing is because when he demanded $350,000, and he didn’t get it, he indicated he would do his best to kill us, and if we were successful it would then make his mother’s property lucrative to our competitors, so incompatible should not be there, it is simply driven to convince my client to pay $350,000,” said Theriaque.
Josh Hufstetler, a representative of Teramore Development, said the company does have an agreement with Elias’ mother to purchase the property for $250,000.
Hufstetler said the additional $100,000 came as a result of Dollar General’s necessity to restrict competition from coming in, to ensure that the landowner doesn’t bring in another company that will try to put Dollar General out of business, such as Family Dollar or Dollar Tree.
“We believe we bring a few things to the community—jobs, economic development and convenience to the neighbors that want to shop at a neighborhood commercial store, such as Dollar General,” Theriaqe said.
He said there will be 8 to 10 part-time and full-time jobs at the store, and the county will receive revenue from taxes.
Elias addressed Hufstetler’s comments, saying after the planning
commission voted Teramore’s request down, Hufstetler called him offering to purchase his mother’s property.
“There was a contract signed, regardless of the amount of money,” Elias said. “By the way, it wasn’t $350,000; it was $260,000, but again the property was not for sell, so if they wanted it ‘get up and come get it; make us know that you want it.’”
Elias said after the contract was signed, Hufstetler came back with a restrictive covenants agreement. He said he told Hufstetler his mother would only agree if they would pay another $100,000.
Hufstetler did not agree, so Elias said they would instead offer them first right of refusal if another company wants to come in and purchase the property in the future.
“He wanted my mother to sign in perpetuity what she could and could not do with the remaining portion of her property,” Elias said.
Citizens in favor of Dollar General also attended the meeting.
Norman Shaw appeared before the board and said he was in favor of having a Dollar General in the community.
“It doesn’t matter where it’s located at, but we do need one,” Shaw said.
Shaw said the local country stores charge twice as much as Dollar General does for the same items.
Sylvester Green, who lives in the neighboring Robertsville community, agreed with Shaw.
“There’s a great need for this store,” Green said.
Green said many of the residents in Robertsville don’t have transportation to the Dollar General located in Quincy.
“I don’t shop at the country store for the simple fact that they take advantage of my people,” Green said.
Green said he respects that Elias is looking out for the best interest of his elderly mother, but his parents are also elderly and he worries about them each time they travel into Quincy to shop.
Commissioner Ronterrious Green pointed out that there has been a change to the members of the planning commission since the recommendation to deny the small scale comprehensive plan change was denied.
He also said he doesn’t want the company to go to another county, as other companies have done in the past.
Commission Chair Brenda Holt said the property is located in her district, and she’s been out in the community talking to citizens for two weeks, and she said they have all stated they want the dollar store.
Holt noted that she had petitions from more than citizens in favor of having the Dollar General in the St. John community.
“We have to look at the whole community—look at the economic development, the growth,” Holt said.
The future land use map amendment passed 4-1, with Commissioner Eric Hinson being the only commissioner to vote against it.
Now that the board has voted to approve the future land use map amendment from agriculture to commercial, the ordinance will be sent to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Division of Community Development.
The division will have 31 days upon receipt of the ordinance to file any comments or objections.
Gadsden Growth Management Director Diane Quigley said the division doesn’t usually object to small scale comprehensive plan changes.
Quigley said If no objections are filed, the ordinance becomes official.
The developer will then have to develop a site plan and go back before the planning commission and the Gadsden Board of County Commissioners for site plan approval.
In other matters, the commissioners also voted 5-0 to refinance a lease with Motorola Solutions for radio equipment, jail tower, dispatch console, as well as incorporate the civil work in the new lease agreement.
Refinancing the lease agreement offers a lower interest rate of 2.89 percent from 4.29 percent on a balance of $963,249.87 and 3.10 percent on $357,316.83.
The county will also be able to combine the $435,488.43 in civil work awarded to Motorola Solutions into the new lease agreement for a seven-year term.
By Erin Hill
This story was modified to correct the byline.