A national dollar store chain has pulled its application to develop in a rural area of Franklin County amid a lengthy list of county requests and an outcry from advocates for community planning.
Dollar General pulled its application Wednesday to build a store at 3350 Louisville Road in the Bridgeport area of Franklin County. The application was months into processing when the Franklin Planning and Zoning Department issued numerous concerns about development on the property and a group of community planning advocates, Envision Franklin County, began to oppose the project. A reason for the company’s decision to halt the development was not given.
Attempts to contact a representative of Dollar General at its corporate headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, were unsuccessful.
Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells said the county was not given a reason. He said the future of Frankfort and Franklin County depends on development, but he declined to say whether Dollar Generals specifically fit that development.
“I think controlled growth in our community is going to be vital to our future,” Wells said. “We are going to have to increase our population to lower taxes, bring revenue and sustain services in our community.”
Only a day before Dollar General backed out of the project, members of Envision Franklin County met at the Paul Sawyier Public Library for a regularly scheduled public meeting. One topic on its agenda was the proposed Dollar General store and a recent “waiver” on plans for a septic system.
Brent Sweger, vice president of Envision Franklin County, said the store does not fit the comprehensive plan for the “hamlets” and “villages” of rural Franklin County.
“There may be need for some type of commercial development in Bridgeport, but there has not been the proper planning for what that is,” he said. “It’s not that we’re anti-development or anti-Dollar General, but this random-type of development is not what’s best for Franklin County. Our concern is that it’s unplanned.”
One of the main issues Envision Franklin County had with the project was that it had not been publicly announced. Robert Hewitt, Franklin County planning director, said the project technically fit the comprehensive plan, which is why it was not announced. He said that if a development does not require significant modifications to a property then it can receive a “staff level” approval to proceed. However, Dollar General had yet to clear all the administrative reviews of its project.
“Not everyone was in agreement with the project – my office being one,” he said.
Hewitt’s office had written the civil engineer on the project with 23 comments that the county wanted addressed. Among those, Hewitt said he asked Dollar General to add about 15 more parking spaces, provide all underground utilities on the property and add a tractor trailer loading dock on site. He said there were also issues with a plan to place about 7 feet of fill in the flood plain.
Dollar General had also recently received approval for a “holding tank” for sewage until lines could be run to the rural area. Wells said getting the waiver for the septic tank came with a caveat that the store would have to plug into the sewage system once it is established in the area.
“It was unusual but not something the health department hasn’t approved before,” Wells said.
Sweger said his group got involved to act as a watchdog and make sure the community doesn’t get “blindsided” by developments. He said Envision Franklin County will continue to call out “random” developments.
“We’re concerned about the good of our community, and instead of saying we’ll sell our souls to a corporation, we should make a development plan for the hamlet of Bridgeport,” Sweger said.