RINGGOLD, Ga. — Neighbors didn't want a big company opening shop in their rural community, so the Catoosa County Commission rejected a rezoning request from Dollar General on Tuesday night.
Bobby Howard, the company's Georgia contractor, asked elected officials to change the zone of about 2 acres in the southwest portion of the county. The property is zoned C-2, which allows the company to build on up to 5,000 square feet. But Dollar General officials want a 9,100-square-foot store, requiring a C-1 zone.
A group of residents don't want the store, located at the corner of Burning Bush and Three Notch roads. It would sit across from two traditional country stores: The Front Porch Fresh Market and Napier Feed Store.
"We should embrace the idea of preserving what makes this part of the county a little bit unique," said Jim Webb, who argued the commission should keep franchises on busy streets.
On Aug. 22, the county's planning commission rejected the request. The county commissioners did the same Tuesday, voting 4-0 against the move. Commissioner Bobby Winters abstained from the vote. At the end of the meeting, he ripped the other elected officials for rejecting Dollar General's request.
"That store would help the citizens about their property tax," he said. "That's the reason we need to support our businesses. I don't care what planning and zoning says. The buck stops right here."
Resident Jim Skeen told the commissioners he opposed the zoning change because Dollar General might leave one day. And when it does, the land would still be C-1. And while Howard said the store wouldn't attract customers from outside the area, Skeen believes another big business could come in. And that one might bring traffic. And then what? The community would change forever, he said.
The owners of the nearby country stores differ on the issue.
Said Joe Napier, of Napier Feed Store: "Dollar General's got 12 or 15,000 stores. I think that's enough."
Said Jimmy Dean, of The Front Porch Fresh market: "I think it would be a benefit to my business. I think it would be a benefit to my community. And I think the people that oppose it will be the first ones in there in a year."
Dean said he researched the company, wanting to make sure a Chinese businessman didn't own it. He was pleased to see it was an American company. And he believes Dollar General is the future in this part of town.
Flood ordinance change
The commission voted unanimously to make building a flood plain in the county easier.
Zoning Administrator James Davis said prospective builders have to receive a No Rise Certification from an engineer if they want to construct a building in a flood plain. Before granting the certification, the engineer is supposed to survey the property, examine the building plans and project how the project could impact flooding.
For example, a new building in the flood plain could cause water to spread more or rush faster, building up on a neighbor's land. The certification usually costs $5,000-$15,000, Davis said. And even then, the engineer might reject the certification, concluding that a new project is going to cause too much flooding.
The new ordinance will limit this certification requirement to properties that are on the "lower fringe" of the flood plain. What constitutes the "lower fringe" is different for each plain in the county, Davis said. But generally speaking, the commissioners have divided the plains into two parts.
The "lower fringe" is the half of the plain that is closest to the flood way. The "upper fringe" is the half that is farther away.
Builders on the "upper fringe" will no longer have to receive the certification. Instead, they will have to build a "lift" on the property, rising the construction above the plain. At the same time, Davis said, people trying to construct big, commercial projects will still need an engineer's approval, even if they are in the upper fringe.
"We're trying to help the normal, regular property owners who just want to build a house on a property," Davis said. "That expense [for the certification] is a burden."
The new ordinance is in line with that of Ringgold's, Davis said. He is not sure how many people chose not to build a house in the upper fringe because of the No Rise Certification. But he has warned people in the past that trying to construct a home there could be expensive.
Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.