Dollar General development gets second life after council reconsiders previous vote

Chip Shaffer, with Hope for Heroes, presents Mayor Gary Graham and the City of O’Fallon with a flag flown on a combat mission in Syria and Iraq by the Airmen of the 4th Special Operations Squadron in recognition of the city’s support of the Hope for Heroes program and troops. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – A controversial subject returned to the forefront of discussion at Monday’s City Council meeting when the proposal to allow Dollar General to move from Southview Plaza to a site along Highway 50 and South Lawn Avenue was brought back for reconsideration.

The proposal was originally voted on at the January 17 City Council meeting, where it was defeated five votes to seven. However, since that meeting, two aldermen, Chris Hursey of Ward 5 and Rich Meile of Ward 1, had a change of heart.

Under the rules of the council, an alderman who voted in the majority can motion to reconsider the vote and bring it back to the table. Alderman Hursey did so and was seconded by Meile. Both voted ‘no’ previously, allowing them to bring the issue back up Monday.

When asked why he brought Dollar General back for consideration, Hursey said he decided to do so after speaking to residents of his ward.

“After speaking to a bunch of residents in my ward, up and down the neighborhood and in some adjoining neighborhoods, they all said they wanted a Dollar General here. The consensus was they don’t care where the Dollar General is, they just want it and don’t want to run it off. At this point, we need more discussion on this. This was only the first reading. We need to take it back to committee and get more discussion going. We need to come to a solid consensus and do right by the city and as many people as we can,” Hursey said.

Residents that have previously attended meetings and expressed their displeasure at the proposed Dollar General site continued their opposition during the public comment portion of the meeting. At times the conversation became heated, with many of the residents reminding the council that it is an election year and the aldermen work for the taxpayers.

“I struggle for a need for a re-vote. We went through the process and the process worked the way it should have. I struggle with why does that Dollar General have to go on that particular lot,” said Mark Piekutowski who lives near the proposed development.

One alderman who was not present for the first vote, Matthew Gilreath of Ward 3, said he voted in favor of the Dollar General development plan because his number one priority is taking care of Southview Plaza which is in his ward.

“The two aldermen from Ward 6 were asked why it is good for their ward to have Dollar General. I ask, why is it not good for the people of Ward 3 to take care of Southview Plaza? It makes sense, not just for Ward 3, but the whole city. Voting yes for Dollar General helps the problem of Southview Plaza. It helps us finally address the trash and the feral cat problem over there. Everything gets taken care of when we get Dollar General and Papa John’s into new locations so it can be bulldozed down,” Gilreath said.

During the vote, Alderman Herb Roach attempted to amend the proposed resolution to ensure the developer would begin construction of the infrastructure needed for the residential portion of the plan. Community Development Director Ted Shekell and Police Chief Eric Van Hook expressed their concerns about the construction of an unmonitored cul-de-sac.

“Right now there is no commitment that the residential portion will be built,” Roach said. The project involves not just the Dollar General, but also duplexes to be built between the Dollar General and the already existing houses.

While that amendment failed by a four to nine vote, the resolution will go back to committee and will be discussed further at the Community Development meeting on Monday, February 13.

The resolution passed on first reading by a vote of nine to four. Aldermen Kevin Hagarty, Herb Roach, Matt Smallheer, and Robert Kueker voted against the proposal. Alderman Ned Drolet wasn’t in attendance and was excused.

In other business…

  • The council approved a resolution that authorized the Mayor to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Shiloh and St. Clair County for improvements along Hartman Lane. Central School District 104 applied for and garnered a Safe Routes to School grant. Portions of this project are located within the Hartman Lane right-of-way within St. Clair County jurisdiction. The County is requiring this agreement in order to define maintenance responsibility of the sidewalks.
  • The council also approved an ordinance allowing for the issuance of general obligation bonds. The bonds will not exceed $10 million and will be used to finance the costs of the Destination O’Fallon project consisting of the Downtown Plaza and Family Sports Park soccer complex. The bonds will be repaid using from the additional revenue that is believed will be generated from the four percent increase in Hotel/Motel tax.
  • The City Council heard from residents interested in bringing backyard chickens to O’Fallon. A Facebook page has been established for those interested in supporting the idea.
  • During the Clerk’s report, the council approved a request from the Marine Corp. League to conduct a roadblock at the intersection of State and Lincoln on Saturday, May 27, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
  • The next City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 21, at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers.