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Dollar General planned

Parking concerns raised; plan sent to P&Z for comment

SOLON– A national retail chain has its eye on a Highway 1 industrial lot.
A concept plan for a 10,640 square-foot Dollar General was introduced to Solon City Council members during a Feb. 17 meeting.
Council members and Mayor Steve Stange raised concerns over a requested variance for parking stalls, and asked for the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) to comment.
City Administrator Cami Rasmussen reported the city received a rezoning and site plan application for 920 S. Market Street, a 1.235-acre lot directly north of Jordan Creek Plaza in front of Lite Window and Door (the former Foundry Equipment). The store would face Highway 1 with an entrance to the parking lot on Windflower Lane.
Rasmussen said city staff conducted preliminary meetings with Rusty Doss, project manager of Overland Engineering in West Plains, Mo., to discuss rezoning the land for commercial use. The property currently carries a light industrial zoning.
Changing the zoning would require P&Z review, notification of property owners within 200 feet, a public hearing and three council meetings to approve, she said.
The corresponding site plan would go to the P&Z and council once, she added.
Rasmussen, City Engineer Dave Schechinger and Public Works Director Scott Kleppe met with Doss to review truck turnaround, landscaping, lighting, open spaces and parking, she noted. Doss was present for the virtual meeting to answer questions.
Schechinger told council members several variances are being sought for the project, most notably a reduction in the number of parking spaces.
A total of 53 spaces would be required under city code, with 35 proposed, a reduction of 18 stalls.
“They have quite a bit of information from other stores as far as their ideal parking ratio for the size of the store and the number of vehicles,” Schechinger said. “Documentation they can provide indicates that seems to be appropriate for those stores.”
The developer will also be expected to satisfy the site plan ordinance in regard to aesthetics, he noted.
The building will face two busy streets and must include an aesthetic plan to the city council’s satisfaction, he added. Site drainage, stormwater detention and the extension of sidewalks on Highway 1 were also addressed, Schechinger said.
Mayor Stange and several of the council members questioned the parking variance.
Doss responded the number of parking spaces proposed was based on a template used by Dollar General in areas “in the middle of nowhere” with no code.
City Council member Lynn Morris later pointed out the proposed site was not out in the middle of nowhere, but on a busy Highway 1.
She and other council members took issue.
“Having a third fewer spaces than what our ordinances call out, that one sort of jumps out,” council member Dan O’Neil commented.
Both O’Neil and Stange pointed out the proposed Dollar General is not located in the established downtown where parking is very tight, but in a newer area on an undisturbed lot.
O’Neil said he would be curious to hear the opinions of P&Z members.
Council member John Farlinger also weighed in with concern over the variance request, noting on-street parking is not available on Windflower Lane.
Stange questioned whether Jordan Creek Plaza requested parking variances when it was developed and Rasmussen replied it had, but only for about four spaces.
The mayor also asked what other variances are being sought for the Dollar General development.
The other variances dealt with landscaping or buffering, Schechinger replied, all issues the city has been able to accommodate in similar situations with minor variations.
Stange said he might be uncomfortable with a variance on buffering.
“I’ve seen other stores of this type and I’m concerned about the upkeep of it long term,” he stated. Council member Steve Duncan, not present for the meeting, feels the same, Stange added.
One possibility to address council concerns, City Attorney Kevin Olson suggested, would be for the city to enter into a conditional zoning agreement with the applicant prior to any public hearing.
Olson said he could draft an agreement prior to the P&Z officially considering the zoning application.
But Stange and council members still wanted a reaction from P&Z members, and left it to city staff to arrange.
Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tenn., operates over 16,000 retail variety stores across the continental United States.