GERMANTOWN—The Planning Board met Monday, July 30 for three hours with two agenda items: 1) complete the conditions for approval of the proposed Dollar General store on Route 9G just north of Main Street/County Route 8 and, 2) vote the project up or down.
The board did not achieve either goal, but not for lack of trying. The full Planning Board was present, in front of an audience of about 40. The Columbia Paper left the meeting two hours in, at 9 p.m. The audience had dwindled considerably by 10 p.m., according to reports from those who stayed.
One more meeting is needed, by all estimates. It will take place Thursday, July 26 at 7 p.m., the Planning Board’s regular meeting time. The deciding factor was whether Corinne Smith, the new town attorney, could be ready by Thursday with a revised document, with all the amendments that were made on Monday, and specific amounts for escrow accounts that will be active during construction.
Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Smith said she would be ready on Thursday.
Monday’s meeting was for discussion by the board, not for the public. Occasional shouts from the public were heard, and discouraged. Public comment ended June 18. The printed copy of the previous public comments at Town Hall, available in the building foyer, measured about two inches thick.
Taking a role he has performed in the past, board member Tim Otty read the entire conditions for approval so that the planners could ask questions and make changes. Then the planners brought up their own points of concern.
For example, the board discussed “should” and “shall” in the town’s zoning law and whether that law was directive or prescriptive. Planner Margaret della Chioppa said the whole project needed to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) because in the town’s zoning law, a building’s length should not exceed 50 feet, with 35 feet preferred. The Dollar General store will be 71 feet.
Ms. Smith said that “should” does not require the applicant to seek an area variance.
Mr. Otty wanted assurance that Dollar General, which will lease the building from Primax Properties, the developer, would adhere to all fire codes. While this is covered by law, Mr. Otty said that public comment had noted other Dollar General stores with blocked aisles and fire hazards. He was assured that fire marshals have the right to inspect at any time, without notice.
Ms. della Chioppa asked who would administer the escrow accounts. She also expressed concern that Dollar General would put in landscaping and then let it die. Reading from the town’s zoning law, Ms. Smith noted that the owners of all properties in town are required to care for their landscaping, or hear from the code enforcement officer.
Planning Board Chairman Stephen Reynolds noted that Dollar General would determine how the business was conducted, not Primax Properties, which would hold the lease.
“Primax has no recourse,” he said, if Dollar General causes a problem in town, and Primax will not let the Planning Board see its contract with Dollar General.
Reached Tuesday, Mr. Reynolds said he thought that the Dollar General application was, finally, “winding down. I don’t see anything on the horizon as exciting,” he added. “Well, maybe the commercial venues law, or the regulations for solar farms.”