Complaints about a new Dollar General coming to Milan Avenue dominated discussion Monday when Amherst city council convened.
“You can easily gauge how depressed a community is by the number of Check Into Cash or Dollar Generals they have,” said Mark Heiser of Orchard Glen Drive.
Like many, he opposes construction of the dollar store in front of the Amherst Eagles aerie on a lot sold off by the club back in 2003.
But so long as the company abides by long-in-place regulations for medium-density commercial zones, the city cannot move to prevent construction, said Amherst law director Tony Pecora.
The property’s zoning type would allow any grocery store, drug store, retailer, restaurant, or other mid-sized businesses to build: “You can’t say, ‘We’d accept a Heinen’s but not a Dollar General. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t pick and choose,” Pecora said.
Several city council members said they are not thrilled with a Dollar General — which will be the city’s third — on the Milan Avenue land.
“I think that this is probably not the most desirable business to be going in there,” said at-large Phil Van Treuren. Yet he pointed out that under Ohio law officials do not get to say which businesses can open their doors.
The city can only force businesses to adhere to zoning, building, and property maintenance codes.
“We all have our opinions on the issue but the city’s hands are tied,” said Ward One councilman Steve Bukovac, who lives down the street from the proposed store. “It’s really not our say.”
Mayor Mark Costilow, who also sits on the Amherst planning commission, said that body discussed how the store would impact local traffic and found that it would attract fewer than 60 vehicles per hour — not enough to warrant changes to the road or traffic signals.
Eagles member Pete Deskins of Telegraph Road said the club is being pressured to allow Dollar General to tie into its storm water drainage system, which is already at capacity during heavy rains.
Bramhall Engineering reviewed potential water and drainage issues with Dollar General representatives and found no problems. In fact, “the improvement of the land will actually slow down the storm water release,” Costilow said.
Deskins, who stressed that he was not speaking on behalf of the Eagles, said he believes the discount retailer will “trash up” the neighborhood and asked council to slow its path to development.
South Lake Street resident Janet Reed protested: “This has been in discussion for at least nine months and (the) Eagles had the opportunity to buy the property back. They didn’t want it back,” she said.
Deskins said the Eagles were financially unable to purchase the land.
At-large councilman Joe Miller said Amherst needs to do more to attract higher-quality businesses. “We are failing because we don’t have a chamber of commerce-esque organization that goes outside of Main Street,” he said.
There is no board seeking commercial and industrial enterprises that would be better received by the public, Miller said, which leaves companies free to abandon old box stores or strip malls and build new ones.
Amherst does have a community improvement corporation, but it is inactive.
“This Dollar General would not have been an option if we’d done things with a little more vision, a little more planning,” said Miller.
Van Treuren said residents who do not want another dollar store have one recourse: to make a statement with their spending.
“The power of our purse, the power of our wallet speaks a lot. The best thing residents can do if they don’t want to see it there is not shop there,” he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Pete Deskins steps forward to voice concerns Monday about a Dollar General planned for Milan Avenue. He was one of several residents to take the issue up with city council.