Dollar General is the talk of Wilmington
WILMINGTON — Around two dozen members of the general public attended the Wilmington Planning-Zoning Board meeting on Monday. It was held in the town’s firehouse rather than in the town’s Community Center building in order to accommodate the expected turnout and allow for social distancing. The reason for the crowd was significant public interest in a proposed Dollar General store.
The location of the proposed store, across from the State Police barracks on state Route 86, is just inside a section of the town classified as “hamlet,” a state Adirondack Park Agency category that allows for denser use. There is currently a single-family home on the property, which Dollar General hopes to demolish to make way for a 10,640-square-foot store.
The company is not seeking a variance from the board.
Caryn Mlodzianowski, a representative from the Albany office of Bohler Engineering, addressed the board and fielded members’ questions. In recent years Mlodzianowski has addressed municipal boards on behalf of proposed Dollar General stores in upstate New York communities such as Bloomingdale, Caroga, Fort Anne, Fort Edward, Berne, Hyde Park, Cadyville and Gloversville.
Board members’ questions
Responding to a question from Jerry Bottcher, Mlodzianowski said that the building would be owned by another company, Primax Property LLC, and leased by Dollar General.
Board Chair Charles Grundon asked Mlodzianowski if Dollar General has considered building a smaller store in Wilmington.
“No,” Mlodzianowski replied.
“Would they?” Grundon asked.
“I can ask,” Mlodzianowski said.
Grundon then asked Mlodzianowski to look at the facade of the Family Dollar in Lake Placid and use it as a reference for “something that would fit in our area.”
Board alternate Bob Peters asked a series of questions about potential issues stemming from rainwater rolling down Quaker Mountain onto a large new Dollar General parking lot, and flowing from there to lower-lying parts of the town.
“I think that’s a major, major problem,” Peters said.
Mlodzianowski said Bohler Engineering has prepared a “short form” version of an environmental assessment form (EAF). The board asked the firm to prepare a full EAF.
Grundon asked Mlodzianowski to return to the board’s next meeting on May 4 with more information about Dollar General’s willingness to revise the proposed store’s size and appearance.
Talk of the town
Grundon began the portion of the meeting devoted to the Dollar General proposal by telling the community members in attendance that there would not be an opportunity for public comments about the proposed store that evening, but that they would have the opportunity to speak out at a future meeting.
“Please do keep sending in your letters and emails,” Grundon said. “We’re keeping a record of everything.”
Of the letters and emails the board has received as of Monday, more than 50 expressed opposition to the proposed store. One person wrote in favor of the project. The written comments were almost entirely submitted by residents, both full-time and seasonal, of Wilmington and the adjacent town of Jay.
The public did have the opportunity to comment on plans to renovate the site of a former hardware store next to the Little Supermarket and install a branch of the Peru Federal Credit Union there, but no one wanted to weigh in.
Maggie Pope, the credit union’s CEO, addressed the board and the assembled community members. She said the credit union’s name will probably change soon to reflect its expanded geographic reach.
The board unanimously approved the credit union’s proposal.
“Thank you very much,” Grundon told Pope. “We look forward to having your business in our community.”
Pope, communicating via email the following afternoon, said that the credit union expects to open its Wilmington branch on May 17.
The board also unanimously approved a request to install 1,500 feet of 8-foot-tall chain-link fence around a portion of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge property, which is located between Springfield Road and the AuSable River’s West Branch.
Speaking during a follow-up conversation Tuesday afternoon, Wilmington Code Enforcement Officer Doug Nemec said that, according to AWR co-founder Steve Hall, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has mandated the new fencing.
Created by Steve and Wendy Hall, the AWR is a zoo-like tourist attraction and animal rehabilitation center that is popular but has also received some unwanted attention in recent years.
In 2019, two black bears escaped from their pens on the property and were on the loose for two weeks.
In 2020, local newspapers reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied the AWR’s requests to keep birds for exhibition purposes due to violations of state and federal laws stretching over the course of roughly six years. Around the same time, it was reported that the DEC revoked Wendy Hall’s wildlife rehabilitation license due to “repeated and ongoing violations of state and federal laws.”
“I think we’re all aware that this is a very unique and very good thing in the neighborhood,” Grundon said, seemingly summarizing the board’s general assessment of the Halls’ operation.
It appeared that there were no representatives of the AWR in attendance.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said about two dozen people attended the planning-zoning board meeting, but those two dozen were just the members of the general public. In total, about three dozen people were there, including those affiliated with the board, the town of Wilmington and the project applicants. The News regrets the error.)