Proposed Family Dollar raises ire of Elgin residents

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County Council approves first reading

By Chris Sardelli

Robert Wade worries a new Family Dollar store near his Elgin home will mean an increase in crime.

Rachel Wallace is concerned about what kind of store could move in to the building if the Family Dollar should happen to fail.

And Carolyn Petroski, who enjoys the rural landscape of her community, fears the business could irrevocably harm her way of life.

These Elgin residents joined several of their neighbors at Monday night’s Lancaster County Council meeting to speak out against the addition of a Family Dollar store in their community. 

Specifically, the group urged council not to approve a proposed rezoning of property at the intersection of Community Lane and Kershaw-Camden Highway from R-30 low density residential/agricultural district to B-3 general commercial district. The rezoning would allow the business to set up shop in the area.

One by one the residents, who hailed from homes along Community Lane, Mountain Laurel Road and Kershaw-Camden Highway, among others, voiced their concerns with the project.

With only a small staff to man the proposed store, Robert Wade said he worries it would be a magnet for burglars or robbers.

“The people of Elgin have a neighborhood watch, but we shouldn’t have to be Family Dollar’s security solution,” Wade said. “This shouldn’t be located near residential.”

Petroski agreed the store could change everything she loves about Elgin.

“I chose to live here because it’s a rural area,” Petroski said. “We’ve had stores in the area that have failed because the area couldn’t support them. I’m concerned about what could come in behind Family Dollar.”

Michelle Wade, a Community Lane resident, was overcome with emotion as she opposed the plan.

“If Family Dollar fails, what could go in there?” Wade said. “It will be a big empty box on a big concrete surface. When it’s empty what will that do to our property values?”

‘A good-looking store’

Council also heard from several people who supported the project.

Judd McAdams, developer on the project, said Family Dollar researched the area and located several thousand residents who live in the general vicinity of the proposed store. He said the store would not attract a criminal element and assured council the store does not make evening deliveries, thus eliminating noise concerns at night.

“They are a good, solid company and a good corporate citizen,” McAdams said. “It will be a good looking store and will provide a service to the community.”

Don Johnson, whose pasture full of goats and cows sits near the proposed store, said he is in favor of the project.

“I think Family Dollar is a good company and will take care of what they put there,” Johnson said.

He also said the store could give jobs to at least 10 or more residents.

“This will be good for our community. It’s like a mini grocery store,” he said. “And my cows would love to see all those people come on in there.”

Don Richardson, who owns the property in question, said the rezoning would only apply to 1.13 acres out of a 5.46-acre piece of land.

“The Family Dollar we think will be a good fit here,” Richardson said.

Council votes

Later in the meeting, County planner Penelope Karagounis presented her report to council. She said the property is surrounded by residential properties, though there are a few commercial properties in the vicinity.

“Initially the planning staff were going to recommend, but then staff felt they had to be consistent with the county’s future land-use map, so they recommended it be denied,” she said.

Despite that recommendation, she said the county’s Planning Commission voted 6-1 last month to approve the rezoning.

Karagounis also said a recent public hearing about the issue revealed mixed emotions from residents about the plan.

“About half of the residents were worried about traffic, noise and crime,” she said. “About half of the residents were for it because they said it provided convenience to the community.”

Before the vote, District 5 Councilman Rudy Carter wanted to clear the record about what he’s heard from residents in his district.

“Someone made the statement that I said 90 percent of people in Elgin are for this, but my comment was 90 percent of people I’ve talked to are in favor of this,” Carter said. “I make a motion to accept.”

Council then unanimously approved first reading of the ordinance. Council members will consider second reading at the March 26 meeting.

 Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416