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Castleberry Fairs

Some Bethlehem residents less than thrilled by possible dollar store


Development company presents proposal to Planning Board; application still not submitted


November 02, 2011
BETHLEHEM — Though an application hasn't even been submitted, the proposed construction of a Dollar General store in Bethlehem got a cool reception from a number of residents last week.

Many questioned the environmental impact of stirring up the ground where the burnt remains of a grand hotel are still buried. Others worried about the visual effect a chain store would have on the eclectic flavor of the town. And still others, loyal to local businesses, disagreed with bringing in competition for the Village Store.

The representative for an Ohio-based development company met with the Planning Board for what was meant to be a purely conceptual review of the project in order to find out what would be needed for site-plan review if an application was presented to the town.

According to Robert Shearer of the Zaremba Group, the 9,100-square-foot store would be one of 9,500 across the nation for Tennessee-based Dollar General, which sells household items, pet supplies, groceries, health and beauty items, apparel, toys and tools.

Shearer said the company is cognizant that the 1.45 acres being eyed for the project is part of the downtown lot where the Sinclair Hotel sat until it burned in the mid-1970s. And, within reason, Dollar General would be open to talks about aesthetics concerning the outside of the building and its sign, as well as plans for a marker recognizing the plot's history, he said.

As for the environmental concerns, "we did extensive testing," said Shearer, and despite worries of asbestos, according to the company's engineers, only burned wood and traces of lead paint were discovered.

Some residents were still left unconvinced and suggested that an independent study be done. Shearer said an engineer would be onsite during construction to be on the watch for any additional contaminated material that could be uncovered.

Rebecca Sanders of Dollar General's media department said Monday that the company assesses many factors in determining which communities to build in, including demographic trends, traffic trends and customer needs.

Though Shearer said the company targets areas with populations of about 20,000, Sanders said Dollar General builds in both urban and rural areas.

"Bethlehem seemed to be a great match for us, and we believe we can deliver a convenient shopping choice for this community," said Sanders.

An application would be submitted once "due diligence has been done" and another look was given to the company's budget, said Shearer. That, he added, could take anywhere from two weeks to three months.

Tiffany Eddy
Martin Lord Osman
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