Dollar General Abandons Appeal

Communities / Sep. 28, 2017 9:13am EDT

By Sandy Vondrasek

The Dollar General retail store chain has apparently abandoned its quest to build a store north of Bethel.

Last week, the Ohio-based Zaremba Group, which develops plans and does the permitting for the discount store chain, withdrew an appeal before the Vermont Environmental Court that sought to overturn the Bethel Development Review Board’s June 8 denial of the project.

Bethel town officials received a notice of Zaremba’s motion to withdraw on Thursday.

“The Town of Bethel Development Review Board denied the application and that decision is now final,” wrote E-Court Judge Thomas G. Walsh in the one-page notice, dated September 20.

Town Manager Greg Maggard said yesterday that the town was not advised of any reasons for Zaremba’s course change.

He noted that Zaremba had met the E-Court’s deadline in July to submit a “statement of intent,” which is supposed to provide the rationale for the appeal.

Zaremba’s statement simply noted that it disagreed with the DRB’s ruling, Maggard said. The judge asked Zaremba for more information, but none was ever submitted, he said.

Zaremba filed its appeal in June, three weeks after the Bethel DRB voted unanimously to deny both site plan and conditional use permits for the proposed 7,500-squarefoot store at 428 Pleasant Street (Route 12, north of Bethel village).

The site—currently an undeveloped agricultural field—lies in the town’s Village Commercial District, but also in Bethel’s flood-hazard and wellhead-protection zones. In its written ruling, the DRB explained that it rejected the project primarily due to floodplain and water protection concerns, citing the town’s zoning bylaws as well as the Town Plan.

The site that Dollar General hoped to develop was a 1.5-acre subdivision of a larger field owned by Michael and Flormelin Bilodeau of Barre. Michael Bilodeau said Tuesday that Zaremba had notified him last week about its plan to drop the appeal.

“I didn’t ask why,” he said. “I just know it’s a costly process to go though.”

Bilodeau, who had an agreement to sell the land to Dollar General if permits were approved, had submitted his own application in May for an alternative use of the 1.5- acre lot, in case the store plan fell through.

Both of the applications for the parcel were submitted to the DRB before the selectboard approved new zoning bylaws for the town, which subject development on the floodplain to more stringent review. As a result, the old bylaws, not the new, were, or are the ones in effect for these applications.

Housing Plan

Bilodeau said that he still intends to pursue the housing project, the construction of a “fourplex” residential building.

Since presenting his initial plans to the DRB in June, Bilodeau has repeatedly asked to have his review “continued” to the next hearing as he refines project plans. He is now on the agenda for the November 7 hearing.

The Herald was not able to reach Matt Casey, a Zaremba Group employee who was at the Bethel hearings, for comment.

Dollar General already has about 30 stores in Vermont, including one on Route 12 in Randolph, about six miles north of the site in Bethel.

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