An artist’s rendering of the Family Dollar store facade that would face East High Street at its intersection with South Pleasant View Road in Sanatoga
SANATOGA PA – Having already won approval to open a store in Pottstown despite vigorous public opposition, the Family Dollar variety chain on Thursday (July 24, 2014) pitched the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners on a plan to build a similar operation on long-vacant land at the southeast corner of East High Street and South Pleasant View Road.
Reactions, although unofficial, were mixed. Two commissioners seemed inclined to favor the proposal, one opposed it, the remaining two offered no immediate opinion. Two area residents attending the board meeting also disliked the idea. And the township solicitor noted the company faced difficult hurdles in winning zoning variances needed for construction.
Boos Development representative Aaron Lorah discusses Family Dollar drawings with Lower Pottsgrove commissioners
Family Dollar is aware of those challenges, its representatives and local attorney Charles Garner acknowledged. Thursday’s presentation was intended to “get some feedback,” Garner said, and admitted that without commissioners’ support on zoning issues the company was unlikely to move ahead.
Willow Grove PA-based Boos Development Group, whose clients include Family Dollar, wants to place the 8,400-square-foot store of steel and concrete-panel construction on the property’s west side. Its front entrance, which initially was suggested for South Pleasant View Road, would be modified to face East High Street. The building would be surrounded by only 40 percent of the parking spaces required within the village district.
A cream-colored and brick facade, as pictured in an artist’s rendering distributed to the board, would be accented by the company’s gold, red and orange color scheme. A stormwater management basin would be located at the rear (south) end of the property facing Brown Street, but would be screened by a landscape buffer.
The retail use doesn’t fit the district’s restrictions for the property, Solicitor Robert Brant noted, and the size and placement of the structure probably will require “dimensional variances” as well, he added. Family Dollar must meet “a significant burden of proof,” Brant said, to gain the zoning board permissions it needs.
Often outspoken resident and former commissioner Tony Doyle was blunt in his criticism. “It’ll be the ugliest thing you ever saw on that corner,” he offered from his chair in the audience. “Aesthetically, it shouldn’t be in the village. It looks too modern. It doesn’t fit.”
Board Vice President Stephen Klotz, for one, did not agree. Although he conceded he preferred to see a popular chain restaurant occupy the space, Family Dollar’s earlier discussions on its use allayed many of his concerns. “It really isn’t a dollar store, and if the project is viable and will stay with benefits to the township, I’m pretty favorable toward it,” he said.
President Bruce Foltz claimed he’s “not against” the plan, but wanted more time to consider it. Commissioners Shawn Watson and James Kaiser asked questions of the developer but offered no opinion.
Recently seated commissioner James Vlahos, on the other hand, made his opposition clear. The building as presented, he said, “just doesn’t belong there.”
Beyond that, though, Vlahos objected to the competitive market threat that Family Dollar, which describes itself as “a CVS without the pharmacy,” poses to other businesses nearby. “I don’t know the positives this brings to the township other than increasing ratables (the tax base), when there’s a store selling similar goods just 25 yards away,” he said.
Vlahos made no mention of the Sanatoga Thriftway supermarket by name, but resident Linda Linsenbigler didn’t hesitate. “I’m concerned about what this might do to Thriftway,” she added. “It won’t survive selling just meats and produce.”
Boos’ spokesman Tim White said the chain does not consider grocery stores as its competition, but noted Family Dollar did sell packaged foods, household supplies and other private label items also found on supermarket shelves.
Pottstown Borough Council last November approved plans for a Family Dollar store to be build on Farmington Avenue at Eighth Street. Residents there objected to it for similar competitive reasons, and traffic concerns.
Company representatives presented this sketch plan of the proposed building’s location. East High Street is at the left of the drawing, South Pleasant View Road at bottom, and Brown Street at right. The Sanatoga firehouse would be just beyond the bottom of the drawing. The former Rite Aid is on a diagonal at the bottom left corner (across East High)
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ July 24 meeting):
Graphics supplied by Family Dollar representatives