PlanPhilly

Germantown residents say they have enough dollar stores and oppose a zoning change that would allow another

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.


Miller says the changes she proposes aren't just about one development.
In the end, the committee's support of the bill seemed to be in jeopardy not because of anything the residents brought to them, but because Burns and Primavera had not attached their Equal Opportunity Plan – a plan that establishes goals for hiring women and minorities – to their presentation. Burns said it existed, it was just not with him. Councilman-at-Large Wilson Goode Jr. told him he was lucky that there was another Rules meeting Wednesday morning. The commission continued the session to give Burns a chance to produce the EOP.

About the author

Kellie Patrick Gates, Waterfront, casinos, planning reporter

Kellie Patrick Gates writes about planning, neighborhood development and the Central Delaware Waterfront. A journalist for more than two decades, she  worked for daily newspapers in Central Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and South Florida before coming to Philadelphia in 2003 to write for the Inquirer. Her work has appeared on PlanPhilly since 2007, and she also writes Love, the Inquirer's weekly wedding column. A native of Elk County, Pa., Kellie lives with her husband, Gary, and their dog and two cats.



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