Palisade Dollar General a no-go

National discount retailer Dollar General has pulled the plug on its plans to build a store in downtown Palisade, bringing to a close a controversial issue that created a stir in this otherwise quiet town.

The decision represents a setback for town officials who contended the business would have brought goods and revenue to a community that has watched a number of storefronts go dark in the past six months. But it marks a victory for a group of citizens who argued a non-locally owned corporate entity didn’t fit in with Palisade’s fruit-and-art character and could harm other businesses.

“It’s disappointing to me in the fact that whether it was Dollar General or whether it would be a ... clothing store, I wanted to try to start some kind of economic growth here in the town,” Mayor Roger Granat said. “We’ve got all the art shops and stuff, and that is great, but the things that the people of the town of Palisade buy normally, they can’t get here.”

Citizens for Smart Growth member Erin Stephens-Marner said she was “amazed and proud of our community.”

“It just goes to show you what a small group of concerned citizens can do when they’re passionate,” she said.

Town officials announced in a news release Friday that Dollar General was no longer considering building a 9,200-square-foot store on a roughly one-acre site north of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and west of Main Street.

Granat said a representative with Franklin Land Associates LLC, a Tennessee development company, informed Town Administrator Tim Sarmo of Dollar General’s decision Thursday.

Granat said the representative was vague about the reasons Dollar General declined to move forward with the project and that town officials never spoke directly with anyone from Dollar General. Town officials said they believe Dollar General pulled out due to the slow-to-recover economy and because it reassessed its revenue and cost projections and determined the net returns for the business wouldn’t reach the company’s preliminary estimates.

Granat said the representative from Franklin Land Associates denied that opposition from Citizens for Smart Growth played a factor in Dollar General’s decision.

“He said that they had received calls and some letters, but he said it had absolutely no bearing on the decision,” Granat said.

Neither Sarmo nor Dollar General representatives returned calls seeking comment Friday.

Stephens-Marner, though, said she’d like to believe the group and other Palisade residents who wrote, emailed and called Dollar General — some communicated with the company weekly or more often — played a role in the reversal.

The town agreed in February to sell property to Franklin Land Associates for the store for $133,500. Town officials estimated the store would have employed 20 workers, sold $1.5 million in products annually and contributed more than $30,000 in local sales and property taxes each year. They pitched the project as an opportunity to boost the town’s economy and keep residents shopping in town rather than driving west to Clifton or Grand Junction.

But Citizens for Smart Growth cried foul over the emergency ordinance under which town trustees agreed to the sale, a designation that allowed the ordinance to take effect immediately rather than the normal 30-day period after it’s published in a newspaper. Town officials cited an exception in the town’s code that permitted such ordinances that dealt with the preservation of the public health.

The group and other residents also resisted because they viewed Dollar General as being incongruous with the town’s emphasis on buying and selling locally made products. During a Town Board meeting last week, Citizens for Smart Growth presented information from the most recent town survey indicating that a box store was residents’ least desired type of businesses. They also presented results from an informal, unscientific petition and survey they circulated and conducted, and those indicated a majority of respondents were opposed to Dollar General.

Granat said it’s too early to say what the town will do with the property, and Dollar General’s decision to back out is “water under the bridge.”

“I think that the Citizens for Smart Growth had some great ideas, and I hope they’ll continue to be active and come to the meetings,” he said.

Stephens-Marner says the group plans to do just that, along with helping to fill the void that won’t be occupied by Dollar General.

“Definitely we’re not just about the Dollar General,” she said. “We’re still an active group speaking to help the town.”


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