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Plans submitted for Wilmington Dollar General

WILMINGTON — A new Dollar General could be coming to Wilmington. The project already has some vocal opponents.

A developer submitted plans to the Wilmington Planning Board last week seeking to build a new Dollar General on state Route 86, a busy strip that winds through the center of town. The initial site plans haven’t been discussed at a planning board meeting yet — the project is on the board’s agenda for its March 1 meeting, and the property would need to be rezoned from residential to commercial use — but they’ve already become a topic of conversation in the community.

What’s proposed

If approved, the Dollar General would be one story, 10,640 square feet and have a similar look to other such stores in the area: a split metal panel and beige-and-brown stone facade with a lit yellow and black branded sign over the entrance. It appears the store would have about 30 parking spaces, two of them handicap-accessible.

The project application shows that the developers expect construction of the store to take three to four months, though they’ve applied with an expected seven-month construction period, starting in June.

Essex County property records show the land where the store has been proposed, 5856 state Route 86 — east of Wilmington’s center, heading toward Jay — was purchased by Michael Rush and Kendra Rowitsch in 2017. The property currently has a single-family house on it, and it’s still zoned residential. The home would be demolished if the plans for the store are authorized. Primax Properties, a real estate development company based in North Carolina, is under contract to purchase the property, according to the company’s planning board application.

There are also Dollar General stores in Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, plus Family Dollar locations in AuSable Forks, Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, and a Dollar Tree in Saranac Lake.

There are at least 17,000 Dollar General locations across the U.S., according to the company’s website. That’s far more locations than even Walmart, a major box store chain with more than 4,000 locations in the U.S. And the number of Dollar Generals and Family Dollar stores across the country is rising fast — the number of locations have grown by 50% in the last decade, according to ProPublica, a nonprofit media outlet.

These stores often serve smaller communities. About 70% of Dollar General locations are located in communities with a population of 20,000 people or less, according to the Washington Post.

Public outcry

Leading the charge against the new development is Evan Bottcher, the owner of the Hungry Trout Fly Shop, located on the other side of Wilmington from where the Dollar General is proposed.

His brother Erik, who grew up in Wilmington and is now running for New York City Council, shared the plans for the store on social media and implored residents to contact Evan to “get involved in the fight against this.” Evan Bottcher was not immediately available for comment on Monday.

The response from some locals was swift. Some shared concerns about how the store might impact local mainstay the Little Supermarket, operated by locals Cliff and Sarah Holzer, while others expressed concern that the business’ proposed facade would degrade the character of the community.

“This would ruin the aesthetic of our town,” wrote Elizabeth Blaicher. “Not to mention they build these stores and then never take care of them, they look like cheap bodegas in the slums. We can not let our charming community be sold out to corporate big box retail stores.”

“This is a small town, our town is about caring for the community,” wrote another resident, Danielle Celenzo. “We get a store like this and it will ruin this town and businesses. Wilmington should not have a named brand store at all! It has always been a local shopping place and should remain that way.”

Some organizations — such as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group — have argued that dollar stores aren’t so much a response to chronic poverty as they are an instigator of it, both by competing with local businesses and giving the appearance of poverty, the Post reported.

Not everyone was against the idea of a new dollar store in Wilmington.

“(It) should happen (it would) be great for the town,” wrote one resident, Woody Stevens.

The Wilmington Planning Board is set to discuss the Dollar General project at its next meeting on March 1.

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