Last week the City Council addressed an ordinance that would have allowed Dollar General to build a new location along Highway 50 at South Lawn Avenue, just north of Walgreens. The council ended up voting it down 5 to 7 following some public comment and discussion with the city Community Development Director.
Having had some time to look more into the issue, I believe the it needed to be considered a bit further.
First, by voting this down, did the seven aldermen send a message to Dollar General that they don’t care if their sales tax dollars stay in town? Dollar General is currently located in Southview Plaza, which has been gradually losing tenants. The city’s Community Development Director indicated the company had been looking and considering other locations but decided Highway 50 and Lawn was their best option. Now with that location no longer available, will Dollar General decide to leave O’Fallon? A valid question that needs to be considered given that Dollar General is a major sales tax generator in the city.
Additionally, while we’re on the subject of sales tax revenue, the Community Development Director indicated that Dollar General said that since the proposed location on Highway 50 and Lawn was further to the west than their current location in Southview, they would also consider placing an additional store on the east side of town. By denying the move from Southview, the seven aldermen may have also cost the city an unknown amount of new sales tax revenue from a second Dollar General location.
To another point, Dollar General and the Southview Plaza are located within the newly created Southview TIF district. Officials from District 90 pleaded with the city not to pass the TIF saying it would hurt the school district’s finances for the next 23 years. Dollar General would be moving out of the TIF and into an area, within District 90, that is not in a TIF district. So another question that needs to be considered is if the seven aldermen who voted against Dollar General realized they were denying District 90 additional property tax dollars.
I understand and sympathize with the residents who attended the meeting and stated they did not want Dollar General to locate near their neighborhood. They indicated they would be happy with professional offices, a bank, even a 24-hour urgent care facility, just not retail. One of their complaints is that they felt a close proximity to retail could hurt their property value. However, the council approved, on first reading, an ordinance that could open up that land to any commercial business, not just professional offices. Assuming that ordinance passes on second reading, it could lead to a White Castle or gas station being placed near their home, not just a Dollar General.
The developer has nearly a football field between the back of the Dollar General store and any currently built homes. In between the store and homes, two-family duplexes will be built, preventing current home owners from even seeing the store. Based upon submitted plans, it won’t detract from the neighborhood and will actually create a barrier between the residential and commercial areas already there.
I can understand the two aldermen for that ward voting against the development. However, when all of the others weigh what this development could mean for O’Fallon and what stopping it could mean for O’Fallon, I can’t see how they can oppose it. For the record, Aldermen Kevin Hagarty, Matt Smallheer, Chris Hursey, Rich Meile, Ned Drolet, Robert Kueker, and Herb Roach voted against this development.