Residents protest site of proposed new Dollar General

Sheffield Lake

By John Edwards

A proposal to build a new, freestanding Dollar General store in the middle of an established residential enclave angered residents of one of Sheffield Lake’s most upscale neighborhoods enough to send many of them to city hall in protest on Wednesday evening Nov. 16.

Well more than 50 residents packed City Hall for a Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) meeting to protest the possibility that a new, free-standing Dollar General store could be built on a 1.09-acre lot on Lake Road between Harris Road and Robinwood Avenue.

Attorney Todd Hunt and civil engineer John Wojtila, representing the Dearborn Land Development Co., Dollar General and Zaremba Development LLC, presented their case for the new store. The residents of homes on the north side of Lake Road, Edgewater Drive, Harris Road and Hawthorne Avenue — the area surrounding the Lake Road site — vehemently opposed the idea of any retail store being built on Jim Kolleda’s land.

“Although these parcels are currently zoned B-2, they are surrounded on the north east and south by long-established single-family residential districts,” Edgewater Drive resident Edward Rinderknecht (chosen as spokesman by his neighbors) said. “Given this unique placement, specific diligence and planning must be employed by the city in considering the merits of this proposed development and in doing so without adversely affecting its residential neighbors or the city at large … to build a Dollar General store in the middle of a 60-plus-year-old established residential community mandates a long and hard self-examination by the city regarding the irreparable harm that will be done to all of the surrounding homeowners as well as to the future of Sheffield Lake itself.

“We are for business development, but we believe that there is a proper place for businesses to be located and allowing a Dollar General store to be built in the middle of a residential community is not proper by any standard,” Rinderknecht said. “Moreover, the closing of the existing Dollar General store in Shoreway will create yet another vacancy in an already challenged center.”

Rinderknecht listed the residents’ specific objections, including:

•traffic and safety concerns about adding customer and delivery truck traffic on narrow roads that must also be used – at any time – by fire trucks and ambulances;

•already inadequate sewage and wastewater facilities would be aggravated by increased runoff from the site;

•signage and lighting that (combined with Dollar General’s 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. hours and customers’ headlights as they leave the store after dark) would disturb the neighbors’ peace;

•noise and fumes;

•the likelihood that mature trees on the site will be removed; and,

•signage and landscaping; and reductions of their home valuations and the resultant decrease to the city’s tax base.

They showed photos of a recently built Dollar General store on Colorado Avenue in Lorain and a Lakewood gas station on Lake Road almost completely hidden by landscaping as contrasting examples.

Hunt and Wojtila—as well as most of the residents—wondered why the question was being considered by the BZA instead of by the city’s Planning Commission.

Sheffield Lake Law Director David Graves explained that the proposal was on the ZBA agenda because of specific (if inexplicable) language in a 1981 ordinance that requires the ZBA to consider the size of any proposed building and the percentage of the lot covered by any proposed building. The BZA’s normal purview is to grant or deny variances of codified requirements such as setbacks, but the plan presented for Dollar General doesn’t need any variances, as both Graves and Hunt pointed out.

Rinderknecht asked that they be assured that lighting would be directed away from the surrounding residences and that Dollar General, Zaremba and Dearborn Land Development be required to commission and fund traffic, drainage and home valuation studies to ensure that increased traffic won’t disrupt neighborhood tranquility and city storm sewers will not be overwhelmed, the neighbors compensated for decreases to home valuations and that the seven mature trees on the site be preserved before being allowed to proceed.

“The existing car wash (four blocks west of the site on Lake Road at West Shore Avenue) is disturbing enough to what is a unique lakefront residential area,” attorney Mike Duff (who owns rental property on Edgewater Drive) said. “The problem in this town is that we allow things that wouldn’t be allowed by Avon Lake, Avon or any of our neighbors. Why must we continue to be the ‘red-headed stepchild’ of these other communities? Can this issue be tabled long enough for these neighbors to retain attorney Eric Zagrans to represent them?”

BZA member Ken Tatter moved to table the issue until the Feb. 15, 2012, regular BZA meeting. Miles McClelland seconded and the motion was carried unanimously.

“You cannot table this for three months!” Hunt shouted. “You’re interfering with Mr. Kolleda’s property rights.”

“This is too big an issue,” BZA Chairwoman Diana Jancura said. “Mr. Kolleda was notified of this meeting, but chose to go to Florida instead. Mr. Kolleda’s the guy who constructed a building on the lot line between two properties last year, then expected the city to go along with it because he’s done a lot for the city over the years. We even scheduled a special meeting to accommodate him because he was in Florida — then he didn’t show up at that meeting either. He’s done a lot for the city, but this is another thing he’s doing to the city. This land sale is not a done deal; they have only an option to buy the property. Mr. Kolleda is the crux of this issue. You’re his neighbors. If you know how to reach him, please contact him and voice your objections to him. Your objections are important, well-prepared and presented, but they’re beyond the BZA’s purview.”

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