Dollar General breaks ground on Main
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
Pictured: With a caterpillar hard at work in the background, a homemade sign proclaims the intention at 703 Main Street.
By a 3-2 vote, Bandera City Council approved the issuance of a building permit to Overland Properties, which is overseeing construction of a Dollar General Store in the 700 block of Main Street. However, as has become the norm with business development in the city, it was touch and go for a while during the Thursday, Jan. 9, meeting.
Two sticking points had emerged from an earlier meeting of the Bandera Planning and Zoning Commission - recommendations that the company extend a western façade to three sides of the building and relocate the building forward, closer to property line.
According to City Administrator Mike Cardenas, City Engineer Rudy Klein had sent a letter to P&Z Chairman Tony Battle that gave the Dollar General developer permission to move ahead with the project. "Parking, setback and drainage issues have been cleared by the engineer," Cardenas said. "P&Z's issue is the setback. However, if the building is five feet from the property line - which it is - it meets the ordinance requirements." He also pointed out, "Pico (an adjacent business) sets back even farther than the Dollar General."
P&Z had insisted that plans be reconfigured to locate the building to the front of the property rather than 40 feet back - with the majority of parking located in back of the store.
After reiterating to council that all ordinance requirements had been met, Cardenas recommended that a building permit be issued.
However, Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier and Councilman Jim Hannah insisted that the developer adhere to P&Z recommendations.
"For convenience purposes, we need front parking and front access," said Jacob Stauffer, who represented Overland Properties. Stauffer serves as executive vice president and general counsel for the company. He also noted that extending the façade to three sides would add significantly to development costs.
Jason Williams, P&Z vice chairman, referenced a Dollar General proposed for Cloudcroft, New Mexico that included multi-facades utilizing a southwestern motif. Stauffer replied, "That design increased the cost by $100,000 and the project won't be completed."
A longtime member of the planning and zoning commission, Hannah explained that the store's requested location near the minimum five-foot setback was tied to the historic district adjacent to the downtown district. "We want to upgrade the architectural heritage of the city. Tourists expect some semblance of a western town," he said. Hannah also said as proposed, the façade was unsuitable for a downtown small Texas town.
"The P&Z would like to invite you to attend a workshop to discuss this before saying yes or no tonight," Hannah added.
Declining Hannah's offer, Stauffer said, "We need to move forward with this project. Either you want us to be a part of the town or you don't." Regarding the western façade, he said, "We're already installing an awning, shutters and vintage lighting." Eventually, Stauffer acquiesced to putting western façades on the sides of the building.
Apparently misunderstanding the meaning of façade, Councilman Nita Jenkins expressed concern about what she had determined was a "fake front." She said, "We need business, but we can't ignore the historical aspect." Jenkins was quickly disabused of that notion.
On the other hand, Councilman Glenn Clark supported business development. He said, "We've been living with parking in the front for some time now. We need to start encouraging businesses, offer incentives and stop taking such a hard line. I say let them move forward."
Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris, who spoke during the Public Comment agenda item, echoed Glenn Clark's support. Noting that city decisions affect "every citizen in Bandera County," he urged council not to turn down businesses. Referring to an aborted hotel project, Harris reminded them, "You lost a chance to generate $5 million in tax revenue and alleviate the burden of taxpayers. Now, you have an empty lot."
Again, Cardenas stated, "Dollar General has met all the requirements of the ordinance. If we keep doing this, no business will want to invest in the town. I'm with Glenn. I don't think we can keep holding up the permit."
As Cardenas explained, the ordinance calls for a minimum setback of five feet, but does not specify a maximum setback from the property line. Regarding proposed parking in back of the Dollar General, he said no cement could be poured over underground utility mains. Cardenas also noted, "Dollar General has 36 off-street parking spaces and the ordinance only requires 26."
Glenn Clark asked, "What is historic about the district other than the Cabaret? Why would tourists want to go down there anyway?"
Hegemier, however, expressed support for the P&Z recommendations, saying, "They've spent a lot of time on this issue."
Concurring, Hannah said, "I can't go along with a suburban parking lot in the historic district. Our plan is to set buildings back so there will be a viewscape up and down Main Street."
When discussions ended, Hegemier and Hannah voted against the issuing a building permit for the Dollar General.