Dollar General dispute: Proposed store location causing concerns

PHOTO: Dollar General retail store Cropped Photo: Random Retail / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Residents on Gulf Beach Highway could soon have a new neighbor and they're not happy about it.

Dan Hoffman, a small business owner, buys, sells and repairs computers. In his spare time, he collects old games. His prized possession is a pachinko machine, the equivalent of a Japanese slot machine.

Although he's willing to test his luck with pachinko, when it comes to the future of Perdido Key, he's not taking any chances.

"It's going to cause trouble," said Dan. "It's going to cause traffic issues, it's going to cause discomfort for people who live close by, the lighting, the roads, it's just going to really wear out that area."

Dan's talking about the new Dollar General. He, like many in the community, have concerns. Not over the store itself, but the proposed location.

"It's not going to be a good fit," said Dan.

Plans for the Dollar General, call for a 9,100 square-foot building, 30 paved parking spots and a stormwater management facility all located on the stretch of Gulf Beach Highway between Challenger Way and Cobia Street.

The problem? It's surrounded by homes, the nearest just across the street.

"Putting any kind of retail there, that creates that retail traffic generation, is really incongruous with the rest of the way that Gulf Beach Highway is set up," said Escambia County Commissioner and Board Chairman, Doug Underhill.

Underhill tells us plans for the store have already been rejected by the planning and zoning board, but the property owner, Teramore Development, appealed that decision. It's now up to the board of adjustments to make a call.

"I can say with certainty, the way that we wrote our code, it's written this way specifically to protect areas like Gulf Beach Highway," said Underhill.

Right now, there are no commercial businesses with a mile radius of the proposed site. If the project is given the green light, Underhill says it could open the floodgates.

"Once there is commercial activity there, then the location criteria would not be able to prevent one next to it, and one next to it," said Underhill. "If you want to see Gulf Beach Highway traffic collapse, put a curb cut on every lot and put in a commercial business."

That's another gamble Dan isn't willing to take.

"This is a very relaxed, beachy part of Pensacola," said Dan. "To put something glossy and that high-profile there is just going to take away the entire charm of the area."

On October 18, the Escambia County Board of Adjustments will vote on the project. If the board rejects the project, the property owner can appeal again, this time through the civil court system.

A spokesperson for Dollar General tells Channel 3 News when deciding on new locations they take "demographic trends, competitive factors, traffic patterns and community concerns into consideration".

They anticipate a final decision on the location by early 2018.

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