Decision appealed

Above is the former Family Video building at 125 W. Clinton St. in Napoleon, which is being considered for a new Dollar General store.

The Napoleon Board of Zoning Appeals upheld an appeal of a zoning decision that now clears the way for a new Dollar General in downtown.

The board’s three members voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to override a decision made by City Zoning Administrator Mark Spiess.

When Dolgen Midwest LLC of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, the parent company of Dollar General, applied for a permit to use the property, Spiess denied the permit, stating he defined the operation as a grocery story based on the city’s zoning definition. According to the city’s zoning code, grocery stores are not permitted in C-1 areas, which includes 125 W. Clinton St.

The board’s decision came despite City Law Director Billy Harmon asking the board to allow more time for him to research the issue. Harmon said he had just received information on the issue Tuesday morning due to being out of the office previously on personal matters. He also pointed out the city’s rules for the appeal require grounds for the appeal to be listed, but there were none.

“It seems a little quick, at least from my office, to fully respond other than some very quick readings,” Harmon said. He added he read through Spiess’ reasoning and did not disagree with it “at this point.”

Napoleon attorney Tom Manahan, representing Dolgen’s interests, and Todd Burton, a regional representative of Dolgen, said they did not have more time as the lease deal for the building could expire today.

Burton also told the board communication on the possibility of the company using the building began about two months ago.

Central to the issue was the definition of “grocery store” used by the city. The city’s definition of grocery store is “stores where most of the floor area is devoted to the sale of food products for home preparation and consumption, which typically also offer other home care and personal care products, and which are substantially larger and carry a broader range of merchandise than convenience stores.”

Burton told the board, based on the proposed floor plan for the business, only about 30% of the space will be used for the sale of food products.

“That doesn’t meet the majority threshold,” Burton said, adding that is how he is interpreting the city’s grocery store definition. “Thirty percent is not 50%.”

He also said the proposed business would be different from the current Dollar General on Scott Street. He suggested CVS and Walgreens are the main competitors for what is being suggested for the property, without the pharmacy.

Board of Zoning Appeals President Tom Mack said, for him, the issue comes down to the definition of grocery store, and that allowing more time would likely not change that fact.

“Every time I’ve looked at this ... I keep coming back to this is either going to be defined as a grocery store, or a retail store,” Mack said. “You talk about more time, but would it come down to something different?”

Harmon said that could be possible, but admitted those two options seem the most likely place to start.

“Giving a final opinion on just a little bit of review seems a bit unfair,” Harmon said.

Board of Zoning Appeals member Lynn Rausch made the motion to override the decision to deny the permit, with member Laurie Sans seconding.

Email comments to briank@northwestsignal.net

I started at the Northwest Signal in 1994 and became editor in 2004. I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1994.

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