A group of Germantown residents say what their neighborhood doesn't need is another dollar store, and they don't really want a discount grocery, either.
Their councilwoman, Donna Reed Miller, has introduced zoning legislation that would allow developer Pat Burns to include a store operated by Dollar Tree in the development he is building at Pulaski and Chelten avenues. And Burns plans to open a Save-A-Lot as part of the same development. The grocery would open in December, he said.
Residents say the proposal is wrong for their community
Miller's bill would amend the Lower and Central Germantown Special District Controls so that retail sales of variety/general merchandise are only prohibited only in stores less than 7,500 square feet. The discount store in Burn's development would be about 10,000 square feet.
Burns sought a zoning variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The ZBA sent the matter back to L&I for re-evaluation when Miller introduced this bill. That had some residents crying foul. “This amendment is impermissible spot zoning on its face,” said Yvonne B. Haskins, an attorney for seven Germantown community and business organizations. She asked the Philadelphia City Planning Commission to recommend that Bill 110662 not be passed so that the zoning process that had already started could be completed.
The residents also said that they have a diverse economic community, and they want a mix of stores in their neighborhood – not just discount stores.
Burns and his attorney Carl Primavera said that in difficult economic times, people are looking for value.
The developer says the development is a good fit and a good mix
They said while the store would be operated by Dollar Tree, it was likely to be one of the company's Deal stores, where prices go up to $5.
Burns said he reached out to Trader Joes at the residents' urging, but they were not interested in putting any new stores in Pennsylvania.
City Councilman-at-Large and committee chairman James Kenney said he's an Acme guy who finds fancy stores too pricey. He asked whether Burns economic analysis showed some neighbors wouldn't be able to afford to shop at a more upscale store.
Some of the residents who were there interjected, saying they could indeed afford it. Kenney scolded them for speaking out of turn, as he did throughout the hearing. Burns said Kenney's assumption was correct.
Near the end of the session, Miller addressed her critics. She said the change she made was not just for this dollar store, but to allow other retailers to come into the Germantown Special Controls District. A Macy's could not open there without the change, she said.