G’town wary of dollar store’s value

GERMANTOWN—At least 50 people packed Town Hall Thursday, December 3, for an information session on the Dollar General retail store proposed for Route 9G just north of the intersection with County Route 8 (Main Street).

If any of those people wanted Dollar General to come to town, they were not heard from. Only concerns, and negative comments–some of those shouted, unnecessarily–were heard.

The session was led by Adam F. Sellner, project director from Primax Properties, LLC, in Charlotte, NC. Primax is the purchaser and developer of the property, to be subdivided from a larger parcel. Primax would construct the building and then lease it to Dollar General.

In answer to a question, Mr. Sellner, 41, described himself as a “preferred developer” for Dollar General, his territory the Hudson Valley. “They hire me to construct a building to their specs, and then lease it back from [Primax].”

In looking for a site, researchers in Goodlettsville, TN, Dollar General’s hometown, “look at many things,” said Mr. Sellner, “demographics, traffic counts, product need and the vacancy of that.

“We develop a relationship with clients; they tell us where they want to go. This client wanted to be in Germantown,” he said.

Mr. Sellner stressed the “general” in the store’s name more than the dollar. “Not everything costs a dollar. It’s a general store, with a little bit of everything, including food.”

“We have one of those in town,” said a resident, presumably referring to Germantown Variety. “Would there ever be a food establishment there?”

“I can’t predict the future,” said Mr. Sellner.

A concern expressed repeatedly was that Dollar General would move out, leaving a large empty building on Route 9G. Dollar General’s lease would be for 15 years, said Mr. Sellner, and should the store break the lease, “it’s not to our benefit to have a vacant building. We put safeguards in place with this long-term lease,” he added, which is “completely transferable. Another business coming in would have to pick up the lease.”

Further, he said that the design of the building, a long, 9,000-square-foot, single story structure, meant it could be “repurposed” to house one to three businesses.

“We have the right to sell the building to an investor,” he said in answer to another concern. “They would be bound by the lease. We’ve developed 500 properties,” said Mr. Sellner, who has worked for Primax for 11½ years, “and I can’t say off the top of my head how many we have sold, but we have sold some.

“But here the next owner is buying an investment, a lease; he knows that he has a tenant for 10 or more years,” he said. As the questions continued, he said, “We wouldn’t sell it right away. We have held some buildings for a long time, 30 years. Some we’ve sold after a few years.”

As to the store’s potential revenue, Mr. Sellner said he didn’t know that and, if he did, he couldn’t say. “Stockholders determine the number of stores,” he said, “but stockholders don’t generate where the stores are. Yes, stockholders want more stores. You have to grow or you die.”

The store would employ 8 to 12 workers, he said, 2 to 3 full time and the rest part time. Dollar General would do the hiring.

He said Primax uses a construction company and a management company, adding, “A project manager will bid out the work to local subcontractors.”

When resident David Foreman said that the proposed building lot had heavy metal contamination, Mr. Sellner disagreed, saying that the state Department of Environmental Conservation had investigated and closed the matter. “The site has a ‘DEC spill number,’ but it’s undocumented fill,” he said. “It’s not a garbage dump.”

All surveys and studies of the site are on the town website, germantownny.org.

In addition to concerns about landscaping (not enough) and lighting (too bright), residents asked about the 38 parking spaces. “We’d be willing to reduce that,” said Mr. Sellner. “Your town code requires 38 spaces for that size of a building.”

During the Planning Board meeting that followed, Mr. Sellner noted that requesting a change to the code for fewer parking spaces “would put us into a variance situation” before the Zoning Board of Appeals. Instead, he said, Primax proposed to work with the Planning Board “to waive that requirement without our going to the ZBA.”

“Is Dollar General aware that the community is not in favor of this project?” asked one resident. “Yes,” said Mr. Sellner, “I have communicated that there is a lot of opposition.” The company received this level of opposition “occasionally,” he said in a telephone interview Monday.

During the Planning Board meeting Fred Mastriani of Greenman Pedersen, Inc., the town’s engineers, commented on the papers filed by Primax.

Sidewalks were a subject of debate. Town code requires sidewalks in front of the store that would connect to existing sidewalks. Since no sidewalks exist on that side of Route 9G, Primax proposes making a “payment in lieu of sidewalk” that the town can use later. Mr. Mastriani wanted Primax to install sidewalks on Route 9G. “I don’t think the Planning Board can require sidewalks outside of our project,” said Mr. Sellner. “There’s no legal precedent for it.”

Mr. Mastriani called sidewalks “the biggest conflict.”

“Yes,” said Planning Board Chairman Stephen Reynolds, “and the issue of how the store impacts the scenic overlay” toward the Catskill Mountains.

“Town code requires us to take that into consideration, and we’ve done that,” said Mr. Sellner. “Your code does not prevent building on this site.”

Another debate, at the end of the two-and-a-half-hour session, was over which side was responsible for the application being in process for a year. In January Mr. Mastriani gave engineers from Mercurio Norton Tarolli Marshall, who work for Primax, a list of 21 items to address in the application. Their completed response came in mid-October. Mr. Mastriani sent his comments in late November.

The Primax side of the aisle wanted to fine-tune the paperwork by the January Planning Board meeting and then schedule a Public Hearing. The Planning Board demurred, having now hired a consultant, Ted Fink of Greenplan, Inc., who must review all the documents.

“You have fiscal responsibilities, but we’re volunteers, and there’s a lot here to digest,” said Mr. Reynolds.


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