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Dollar General moves ahead in Gearhart

Parking in rear eliminates need for review
By R.J. Marx

The Daily Astorian

Published on January 17, 2018 1:46PM

Dollar General is planning a store along U.S. Highway 101 in Gearhart.

Dollar General is planning a store along U.S. Highway 101 in Gearhart.

Site of a planned Dollar General store along U.S. Highway 101 in Gearhart.

R.J. Marx/seaside signal

Site of a planned Dollar General store along U.S. Highway 101 in Gearhart.

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After denial of a parking variance in September, Dollar General is back with plans for a store in Gearhart along U.S. Highway 101.

Now that designs show the number of parking spaces required by city code, the retail store is considered an outright use in a commercial zone. The application will be reviewed by Building Official Mark Brien, said City Administrator Chad Sweet, but will not undergo further Planning Commission review.

Parking and traffic issues were at the forefront of the September Planning Commission denial. At the time, Cross Development, the Dollar General developer based in Texas, sought a parking variance to reduce the number of spots from 46 to 27, arguing the business would not generate enough traffic to warrant that many. By designating a rear area of the building to accommodate shoppers’ parking, owners bypassed a second commission review.

“Dollar General refiled their application with all the parking spots included, and is marching through the building process permit right now, with very little change other than the added parking I can see so far,” City Planner Carole Connell said at Thursday’s commission meeting. “They put it all in the back.”

Cross Development hopes to build the 9,100-square-foot store in a vacant lot about 250 feet north of Highway 101 and Pacific Way, across from Fultano’s Pizza and Bowling. The property is owned by Terry Lowenberg of Beach Development.

In their September denial of the variance request, the Planning Commission took issue with aspects of the application, including what city staff determined to be inadequate or incomplete plans for stormwater drainage, signage, septic systems, traffic congestion and fire safety.

In a traffic study conducted by Dollar General, about 285 transactions per day are anticipated, with about 142 transactions per day by vehicle. The store would see about 2,000 transactions a week.

Police Chief Jeff Bowman had safety concerns about the new store, especially turns from the shared driveway onto Highway 101, which is posted at 40 mph. Bowman said the new store would lead to increased calls for service, including disturbances, alarms and accidents.

Fire issues have been resolved, Connell said Thursday, after owners agreed to install a sprinkler system.

Traffic plans have been delivered and are still being reviewed for minor details, Department Review Coordinator Matthew Caswell of the Oregon Department of Transportation said. The work entails restriping the existing center lane, since the double yellow striping doesn’t allow vehicles to enter and travel along the center lane for turning. Roadwork will likely be done in the spring.

Stormwater plans may undergo review to see if they meet state code, Sweet said. “The only thing we’re working on that’s left is to make sure their drainage plan is adequate. Their plans seem to be appropriate.”

Dollar General is set to open 1,000 locations this year, for a total of more than 14,000 stores nationwide, National Public Radio reported in December. It will have more stores than McDonald’s has restaurants. The Astoria Design Review Committee last year rejected the design for a proposed Dollar General in the Mill Pond neighborhood.

“They’re building in small towns all over the country,” Connell said Thursday. “They’re stock plans. They all look the same.”


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