HOPE – The five-member Hope Plan Commission has unanimously agreed to give an unfavorable recommendation to a rezoning request regarding a proposed two-store retail complex.
Nearly 50 people attended a public hearing sponsored by the commission Monday regarding the proposed $2.5 million Dollar Tree and Family Dollar combo store. Tharp Investment Group of Indianapolis wants to construct the stores on the southeast corner of Main Street (State Road 9) and South Street, and is asking for the property to be rezoned from residential to business.
Of the 15 individuals who addressed the commission, not a single person spoke in favor of the proposed 10,500 square foot retail development. The top concern expressed by both commission members and the audience was the safety of children.
Several in the audience said kids use the east side of Main Street in front of the proposed development site to walk to and from the Flat Rock-Hawcreek schools, In addition, members of Hauser High School’s cross-country team use the front of the property along Main Street for practice running.
Lisa Kelley, who lives near the proposed development on South Street, told Tharp Vice President and general counsel William T. Niemier she is “livid” his firm is even considering putting retail stores on the hilly parcel.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people come up to the corner of South and (State Road) 9 and almost hit some of the kids,” Kelley told Niemier. “Come and sit on our front porch when these (Hauser) cross-country runners are trying to run. I just fear there will be a death there.”
On the east side of the proposed development is a swimming pool used by many local children. Hope resident Andy Kilps said the young people who visit the pool will be in danger of being struck by increased traffic.
While Niemier said his company would install a 6-foot-wide asphalt activity path next to the retail development on both South and Main streets, it did little to alleviate concerns about child safety.
Hope Town Council and commission member Ed Johnson said a daycare center is located across the street from the proposed development. After Johnson expressed his concern about the safety of the preschool kids and their parents, Niemier’s response was “this would be a great location for them to purchase their crafts.”
His remark elicited a subdued, but negative reaction from the audience, as did the attorney’s description of the hilly parcel as “a perfect location for development.”
Former Community Center of Hope board president Joanna Tucker described South and Main streets as the second most dangerous intersection in the town of 2,100 residents. Tucker and several other residents, including Johnson, said the proposed development would make traffic congestion much worse.
Retired Hope dentist and Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Board member Dr. John Harker said one of the parameters the planning commission was obligated to consider while considering the rezoning is “undue traffic congestion.”
“I think that point, in itself, is enough to deny this rezoning request,” Harker said.
Commission member Randy Sims expressed two major concerns.
“Right now, you are coming down State Road 9 and see a nice and open corridor,” Sims said. “But where you’ve got this thing sitting, it’s just going to block the view and vision of State Road 9. The other concern is the effect of property values on adjacent properties.”
Hope resident Gary Dodd, who owns several parcels of land along Main Street, said he was certain neighboring property values would drop if the retail development were approved.
While Niemier said his company considered multiple sites in Hope, Dodd said he was never approached in regard to his properties.
Hope resident Megan Brummett expressed multiple concerns that include storm drainage, light pollution, dumpsters and idling semis.
Tucker reminded the commission that another investor had wanted to purchase the former location of Clouse’s Market near the town square to build a Family Dollar store about 10 years ago.
“We turned them down,” Tucker said. “We already had everything that Family Dollar was going to sell with the Dollar General. Since then, our Dollar General has become a better store by providing groceries.”
Dollar General has maintained a presence in Hope since 1999.
“We have other needs in our community where we can bring in a new business that would have more benefit,” Hope resident Alison Wold told commission members.
The house on the 1.47 acres parcel of land, located at 10021 N. State Road 9, would have to be either torn down or moved to make way for the retail stores, Niemier said.
But the residence is built around a log cabin constructed in 1839 by one of Hope’s founding fathers, said Jessica Deckard of the Yellow Trail Museum. That hidden cabin is registered as an historic structure at both the state and federal levels, she said.
The unfavorable recommendation will be brought to the Hope Town Council for their final consideration at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec 19.