O’FALLON – A proposed development that included a new Dollar General store and duplexes was voted down at the City Council meeting Tuesday night.
The development would have been located at Highway 50 and Lawn Avenue. Dollar General was interested in moving out of Southview Plaza and had researched a variety of locations in town. They had settled on the area in question and would have built a brand new store that O’Fallon Community Development Director Ted Shekell said would have been one of the the nicest Dollar General stores in the metro-east.
However, homeowners off of Lawn Avenue have voiced their objections, stating retail violates the strategic plan that the city has in place for that area. Additionally, during the public comment portion of the meeting, concerns about traffic, water runoff, and crime were stated. While the residents indicated they would be okay with a professional office park or similar project, they objected to high impact retail.
Alderman Matt Smallheer said the residents changed his vote during the meeting.
“Prior to this meeting, I was a definite 100 percent yes on both of these. However, I sat back and thought about it as some of you were talking and realized I would not want to look out of my door at a Dollar General. So I think that’s the question we have to ask ourselves, would you want to look our your door at a Dollar General,” Smallheer said.
“The risk of losing Dollar General and the sales tax is too large. There is enough of a buffer that it is going to create a better looking area than just the empty field that is there today,” Alderman David Cozad said expressing his support for the project.
The council was asked to vote on two different ordinances. The first made the necessary changes to rezone the property to allow for commercial along the front third and multi-family residential in the back two-thirds. That ordinance passed by a vote of seven to five. Aldermen Ray Holden, Ned Drolet, David Cozad, Herb Roach, Courtney Marsh, Harlan Gerrish, and Jerry Albrecht voted to approve the ordinance while aldermen Kevin Hagarty, Matt Smallheer, Chris Hursey, Rich Meile, and Robert Kueker voted against it. Aldermen Matthew Gilreath and Gene McCoskey were excused from the meeting.
Following that vote, the council was then asked to vote on the actual plan involving Dollar General and the prospect of duplexes. The ordinance failed by a vote of five to seven, with Aldermen Ned Drolet and Herb Roach flipping from yes votes to no votes. Drolet explained his vote saying “I feel the rezoning is a good move and will protect the residents from having professional buildings going right through there. My problem is the lower part over by Highway 50 is going to also be rezoned and made into commercial. I want to support the rezoning but I don’t support the lower part going commercial.”
Shekell said tonight’s vote was unusual but it became clear the major issue for both residents, and ultimately some of the aldermen, was the store being discussed for the location.
“The council is a split vote which is unusual. They approved the comprehensive plan to show the property going from professional office to retail, but they disapproved the zoning. The plan essentially sets in place what you want to do and the zoning just implements whatever that plan is. Apparently they just don’t want Dollar General,” Shekell said.
Shekell didn’t want to speculate what Dollar General would do following this vote, but he did say he believed they would be disappointed.
“They’ve done a pretty extensive search and found this site would be the best for their store. I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said.
Shekell said when he was talking to Dollar General, the company indicated if the location on Highway 50 would have been approved, it may have resulted in a second location in the eastern portion of the town. However, if the store remains in Southview Plaza, there would be no additional locations considered.
The changes to the plan approved in the first ordinance will be discussed further at the Community Development meeting Monday evening and will be brought back to the full council for a second vote in February.