By Walter GeigerThe Lamar County planning commission voted unanimously Monday morning to deny the rezoning of 1.2 acres at the intersection of Thomaston Street and Veterans Parkway in Barnesville for a new Dollar General (DG) store. About 80 opponents of the plan packed the meeting room at the courthouse.Commission chairman Angela Preston cautioned the crowd that her board only makes recommendations. The final decision will be made by the county commission at its meeting May 15 at 7 p.m.Williamson attorney Tripp Brisendine pitched the plan for his client and father-in-law Donald R. Haywood. Brisendine lived in the house in question at 934 Thomaston St. until about six weeks ago.He noted he submitted his original proposal and was contacted later the same day by developers involved with DG which resulted in a revision.He said Haywood wants the rezoning from R-1 (residential) to C-2 (commercial) whether the store is approved or not. After questioning, he agreed that Haywood owns the home and could tear it down at any time, regardless of approval. Brisendine was the only person who spoke in favor of the project, noting the property is not in the city’s designated historic area.Zoning administrator Dan Gunter reported receiving about 175 signatures on petitions opposing the rezoning. Preston called those who had signed up to speak against the zoning to the podium one by one. Each had five minutes to speak.Elaine Benson, 933 Thomaston St.:Benson said she and her husband had been in their home for 12 years and they had seen the traffic on Thomaston Street quadruple in that time. She also complained of a lot of foot traffic on the railroad tracks behind her home. ‘We are not in the historic district but we are the gateway to the historic district. These family members must think very little of Mrs. Haywood because she would have (fought this),’ Benson said.Dan Rainey, 888 Thomaston St.:Rainey cited statistics from the BPD that on April 23, 2018, 12,160 vehicles traveled Thomaston St. and DG would increase that number. He noted there is no access on the four-lane for DG on the site plan and questioned how trucks would get in and out of the store and where the loading docks would be located. ‘Like Madison, we have a great, old city. We would like to keep it that way,’ Rainey said.Lindsay Yarbrough:Yarbrough is considering a move to Thomaston Street. She had prepared with extensive research. She noted that the current DG store does about $1 million in sales annually with the average purchase being eight dollars. That would require 125,000 transactions at the proposed new store. ‘Hometown values are not found on the aisles of any discount store,’ Yarbrough argued.Rachel Hames, 930 Thomaston St.:’This is heartbreaking. This is a beautiful home. Once you go commercial, there is no going back,’ Hames warned.Eleanor Stecker, 330 Country Kitchen Rd.:Stecker noted that she and her husband moved here in 1996 and were attracted by the physical beauty of Barnesville. ‘When you come down Highway 36 into Barnesville, it is like entering a magical place. I really urge the city and county to consider the treasure we have. It can be taken away so quickly,’ Stecker said.Victor Calle, 633 Greenwood St.:’We all love this community. It has a rich history. This would destroy our community,’ Calle cautioned.Ronnie Simmons, 927 Thomaston St.:Simmons said he moved here 25 years ago for the peace, tranquility and relaxed atmosphere. He said lights from Flash Foods on the four-lane are already an issue. ‘This (area) is the front porch of our community. This would destroy our front porch. I wonder about the domino effect. What will follow this,’ Simmons queried.Van Baker, 521 Thomaston St.:Baker noted that he had spent his career in the real estate division of Norfolk-Southern and considered himself qualified to speak on zoning. ‘I have been in thousands of towns. I could quickly tell which ones had good zoning and which ones had bad zoning. I have been in a lot of zoning fights. Note that DG is not here. This doesn’t matter to them. If it did, they would have all their lawyers here. There are plenty of places for a DG. I’m sorry but this is all about money,’ Baker insisted.Ashley Gilles, 425 Abbott Rd.:Gilles specifically questioned a storm water detention pond on the site plan presented by Brisendine and questioned the breeding of mosquitoes and other pests there. ‘This would probably increase crime in the area,’ Gilles also warned.Doug Smith, 873 Thomaston St.:’I hope you will make the right recommendation to the county commission,’ Smith said.Niall Matthieson, 727 Thomaston St.:Matthieson said he sees one to four tractor trailers on Thomaston Street daily now and, that without four-lane access, DG would increase that traffic. ‘Would you recommend moving Dollar General as it looks now and has looked for the past 30 years to the end of Thomaston Street? I think that would be a phenomenal error,’ Matthieson concluded.Commission member Dwight Fleming, noting the site was inappropriate for a retail operation, made a motion to deny the request. It was seconded by Gerald Thompson. In addition to Preston, the other members are L.D. Park and Richard Miller.
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