Brian Brown: Zoning Ordinance — No Dollar Generals in rural Nevada County
I am writing regarding the Dollar General stores being planned in Nevada County. An issue that I think has not received enough attention is the misapplication of Nevada County’s zoning ordinance.
The developers are claiming that they are building “convenience stores” in order to build in C1 zoning.
Per the county zoning regulations: “C1 is intended to provide for the retail and service needs of nearby neighborhoods.” These proposed stores are clearly not neighborhood convenience stores.
Here is one industry definition of a convenience store: “An 800 to 3,000 sq. ft. store offering between 600 and 1500 SKUs.” SKUs are items for sale in the store. Other sources say convenience stores have 3,000 SKUs on average. Dollar General has over three times more SKUs than the biggest convenience store with 10,000 to 12,000. And the store itself is over three times larger at 9,100 sq. feet.
As the recent article in The Union stated, they are proposing that the exact same size store that they built in Glenbrook Basin (which is C2 zoning, serving “large geographic areas”) is also appropriate for the rural periphery of Grass Valley.
Additionally, it would be impossible for them to make their average per store gross of $2 million in sales strictly from the “nearby neighborhoods.” Sales goals for their grocery section, or “consumables,” are $1.5 million.
Beer, wine and tobacco make up a variable but significant portion of their consumables sales. In order to achieve these sales numbers, at Dollar General’s average ticket of $11, they need over 550 transactions a day. These figures are derived from Dollar General’s own published data.
Many people do not understand the scale of Dollar General’s plans in Nevada County.
Currently an Arizona-based developer has a signed lease from Dollar General for two locations, Rough and Ready Highway at West Drive and the Alta Sierra location mentioned in The Union’s articles. He will complete the property purchases and build both stores this summer, providing he gets approval from the county. He has one more site identified in Penn Valley as well. Dollar General has targeted Nevada County for four of the nearly 700 stores they will build this year.
Dollar General creates no new consumer demand, their $2 million dollar gross ($8 million if all the stores are built) comes out of the pockets of other Nevada County businesses.
Out of state developers want to subvert the intent of our zoning laws so that out of town contractors can build stores that buy none of their merchandise locally, and send all their profits to Tennessee.
Nevada County would get some sales tax revenue and a handful of jobs. These minimum wage, part-time jobs are not very desirable, Dollar General has been ranked among the worst employers in national ratings.
Other obvious impacts, for the neighborhoods that these stores purport to service, are increased traffic, delivery truck traffic, parking lot runoff and parking lot lighting for these large operations.
Dollar General’s hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, 364 days a year, closed only on Christmas day.
I believe these projects should be opposed as a grossly inappropriate use in C1 zones. It will be very disheartening if people come to fully understand the scale of these projects, and the scale of Dollar Generals ambitions in Nevada County, too late.
We need to voice our opinion regarding whether this is the type of retail growth that we want to see in these C1 neighborhood service zones, before county officials make their decisions on these projects.
The county planning department is accepting public input and will base decisions, at least partly, on the public’s opinion.
Please call or email the planning department and your county councilman, and attend the public hearings on this matter. Let them know: no Dollar Generals in rural Nevada County!
Brian Brown is a retired civil engineer living in Grass Valley.
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