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Opposition growing to Family Dollar

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Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:00 pm

Like paper clips to a magnet, a proposal to build a Family Dollar store at Routes 2 and 100 in Moretown keeps attracting more and more opposition.

At least 44 residents of Moretown, Duxbury and Waterbury have signed a petition opposing the project, and both the Duxbury Planning Commission and Revitalizing Waterbury have sent letters to the Moretown Development Review Board, outlining various concerns.

And yet, the project appears to be inching closer to reality.

Top Notch Properties of Moretown applied for the development review board’s approval in mid-December. The discussion has been continued several times, and will resume when the Moretown board meets March 31.

Top Notch proposes building an 8,000-square-foot, 21-foot-tall Family Dollar store where the former Arkley Homestead building now stands, at the junction of Routes 2 and 100, just across the Moretown border with Waterbury. The Arkley building will be torn down.

Family Dollar is a national chain of discount retail stores whose slogan is “Quality Products — Low Prices.”

Aesthetics, traffic flow and limited pedestrian access are among the concerns raised by residents and planning commission members. Another fear is that a Family Dollar store would be bad for businesses just down the street in Waterbury village — businesses such as RJ’s Friendly Market and the Tiny Acorn.

“I haven’t talked to anyone excited about the idea of the Family Dollar coming in,” said Ames Robb of Moretown, one of the 44 people who have signed the petition to gain “interested party status” in the hearings. “They open like 300 stores per year (nationwide).”

Though the Waterbury Planning Commission hasn’t weighed in on the Family Dollar proposal, its chairman is clear about where he stands.

“I have heard from many in town who are worried about this project,” said Darren Higgins, the board chairman. “Family Dollar stores are not known for their architectural excellence and community focus.”

Traffic is another problem. The Vermont Agency of Transportation has already given the Route 2-100 intersection a rating of F, meaning its capacity has been exceeded. A traffic impact report, performed by Trudell Consulting Engineers of Williston, found that a Family Dollar store would bring 40 additional trips during evening rush hour.

That report was prepared before a new entrance to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters was approved for Demeritt Place, just down the street.

In its letter to the Moretown board, the Duxbury Planning Commission recommended “facilities to improve pedestrian and bicycle access and safety” near the proposed development, such as a crosswalk on Route 2 and an extension of existing sidewalks there.

Erica Campbell, a member of the Duxbury Planning Commission, says the intersection is dangerous — and could become more so with the addition of a large retail store.

“We keep adding developments but no crosswalks,” she said. “Crossett Brook (Middle School) is just a half-mile from that intersection. You would hope any new developments address the problem. This doesn’t address it at all.”

Despite the concerns, the proposal seems to have an air of inevitability.

Robb says the development “really has wheels,” and notes that the Moretown board has said that the type of business on the site is “not really a concern of theirs.”

And the board is correct. Development review boards consider retail applications based purely on factors such as design and zoning regulations, without regard to the particular business going into the building.

So far, the Moretown board has yet to raise any red flags about the Family Dollar proposal.

Campbell acknowledged that the Moretown board may approve the application, but believes board members are seriously considering the many issues that have been raised.

“They’ve been very receptive looking into our community’s concerns,” Campbell said. “They’re more concerned with design than traffic. But they have to go by their regulations.”

Development review board members cannot speak publicly about an application once it’s under review. Top Notch Properties could not be reached for comment.

Charles Grenier of Grenier Engineering, the project’s Water-bury-based consultant, said the proposed building is relatively small, about the same size as Waterbury Pharmacy, and is in a traffic-favorable spot at the junction.

Should Moretown approve the Family Dollar application, it would move to Act 250 review, the state-level system for projects that have regional impacts.

Campbell hopes it never gets that far:“This is the gateway to Duxbury and Waterbury. It’s a very important site.” 

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