WEST BURKE — After months of rumors about Dollar General sniffing out a location in West Burke Village, it turns out to be true.
“Dollar General is considering building and opening a store in West Burke at the junction of US Route 5 and Depot Street,” Select Board Chair Joe Allard said on Monday.
“They have asked to meet with the Select Board, the DRB (Development Review Board) and the Planning Board to explain what they would like to do here,” Allard said. “… to show us the different designs that are available for their store; and to find out what the mood of the Town would be if they opened a store here.”
Allard said the board decided unanimously to put out a survey to see what the Townspeople thought of a Dollar General opening up here in West Burke. “We are going to get the surveys together and see what the majority of people think about this and to listen to concerns or objections of people who live nearby,” Allard said.
“We will know more after our Select Board meeting next week and will consult with the DRB and Planning Commission to see what their views are,” said Allard.
Brent Shafer, the town’s zoning administrator, confirmed on Friday that he has spoken with an engineer representing Dollar General, Andrew Mills, of VHB, a national engineering firm with a Vermont office in South Burlington.
Shafer said in an interview that he spoke with Mills, a PE and project manager for Dollar General and has seen an aerial shot of the area at the juncture of Depot Street and U.S. Route 5 in West Burke Village, where the company is interested in developing a location.
That aerial shot shows the access for a Dollar General off of Depot Street, an approximately 30-vehicle parking area out front, and the store facing Depot street, but visible from the side from U.S. Route 5 as well.
Shafer said the company’s engineering firm are working to get subdivision permission for the site first, saying, “I think it’s a long way from coming in.”
There is nothing on file at the town offices yet for a Dollar General application, said Shafer.
Mary Kathryn Colbert, Public Relations manager for Dollar General, responded to an inquiry from the newspaper on Monday and confirmed the company is evaluating a site in West Burke for a possible location.
“At this time, we are currently in the due diligence phase for a new Dollar General in West Burke, Vt. that would be located off Route 5,” said Colbert. “This means we are reviewing the opportunity to add a new store in the area, but we have not committed to doing so just yet.”
Select Board Conducting Survey
Christine Emmons, a member of the Burke Select Board, said on Monday the board’s survey is on counters now at a handful of businesses nearby the proposed location in West Burke, including at Aldrich’s General Store, and Mike’s Gas & Redemption. Surveys are also at Cafe’ Lotti, the Burke Mountain Clubhouse/library, and at the Town Clerk’s office, Emmons said.
“My personal opinion is that I have visions of a revitalized West Burke Village and a chain store is not in that vision,” said Emmons. “I would prefer to support locally-owned businesses. But as a board member I feel that it is important to get a general consensus from the residents that we represent.”
Surveys contain a one-line information section asking for people’s names, addresses, whether they are in favor of Dollar General coming to town or not, if they would favor the business coming to West Burke only if its building was a barn design, or whether they are undecided or neutral on the idea.
Many of those filling out the surveys are opposed to the business coming to West Burke, according to employees at Aldrich’s and Mike’s.
The surveys will be collected and returned to the town clerk’s office by Thursday this week at 4 p.m.
Surveys are seeking input from Burke residents only, the information states.
Shafer said he stopped into Aldrich’s General Store in West Burke the other day and asked the owners what people thought about a Dollar General maybe coming in. He said he was told they would likely look to change the things they are selling somewhat, to try to adapt to the new store coming in, and to be able to survive.
“Brent indicated that Dollar General is also interested in knowing what kind of reception to expect here,” according to Emmons.
She said, “There are varying personal opinions among the board members.”
More Businesses, Yes, Franchise? No
Dianna Cole, owner of Mike’s Gas & Redemption in West Burke, on Monday said, “As a business here, okay, I want businesses to come to West Burke, but not a franchise. They’re not givers, they’re takers. If you went into Aldrich’s or us at Mike’s Gas, we support people throughout the whole community. We hire local kids and are their first stepping stones, we give to the schools from Sutton to Burke to Newark, from soda for the father-daughter dance to flowers to buying the Girl Scout cookies, and you do that because you have a history with their parents.”
“The only reason why Mike’s Gas & Redemption is open is because of our community,” said Cole on Monday. “We’re concerned for pretty much just the way the town would look. Because of the bad reputation that Dollar General has as the ‘ghetto’ store, we don’t want to want to be the West Burke ghetto. There are more than 10 empty buildings already, why not take something that’s already there and make it better? What if four or five years from now it fails, and then there’s this empty building?”