New Fort Smith area Dollar General hits citizen-led roadblock

by Aric Mitchell ( 2,256 views 

A new Dollar General location at the southwest corner of the intersection of Arkansas Highway 253 and Durham Avenue will not move forward, at least not without an appeal to the city’s Board of Directors.

Fort Smith planning commissioners voted 4-3 (commissioners Thomas Howard, Sarah Howe, and Vicki Newton dissenting) in favor of rezoning one of the extraterritorial jurisdictions just outside city limits from “Open-1” (allowing single-family residential) to “Commercial-Light,” or C-2, which would make way for the 9,100-square foot facility. However, per rules governing commission recommendations, there needs to be a minimum of five votes to justify a formal recommendation to the Board, so the effort fell short at Tuesday’s (Sept. 12) meeting.

More than a dozen area residents showed up in solidarity to oppose the Dollar General facility on Tuesday, with one man commenting the location “is a nice residential area” and the presence of a Dollar General specifically would “just destroy it.” He cited the existing volume of Dollar General locations in the area as evidence another “is not needed in this location.”

Prior to the meeting, a second area property owner opposed the request because he did not wish to see any business development in the region, and another feared the location would be used for a medical marijuana dispensary. Global Surveying Consultants, agents for Cobb Brothers and Westphal Properties LLC, did not confirm the location as a Dollar General store until Tuesday evening, but this is not the first time citizen concerns over possible medical marijuana dispensaries have cropped up at recent Fort Smith planning commission meetings.

A previous request for the site at 12350 U.S. 71 South close to Beef O’Brady’s was withdrawn at the Aug. 8 meeting after pushback from residents in the area who were concerned the applicant — Fort Smith Investment Partners — might be planning a dispensary location.

Neal Morrison of Morrison Shipley Engineers (MSE) — the applicant’s agent — told Talk Business & Politics the dispensary idea was “a rumor that got started, and I can’t really talk about where the rumor came from.” He also declined to name the principals involved with Fort Smith Investment Partners. As with Global Surveying Consultants, MSE did not provide a formal development plan for the location, but it was “possible” one could be forthcoming by December.

As for the planned Dollar General, its future is uncertain. However, if Global Surveying Consultants wins an appeal from the Board, it will become the 12th location answering to Fort Smith zoning regulations, though it would not officially be a part of the city. Extraterritorial jurisdictions, or ETJs, give governments the legal ability to exercise authority beyond normal boundaries.