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Mount Ulla residents reject possible Dollar General store

MOUNT ULLA — A full room of people at the West Rowan Volunteer Fire Department on Wednesday fought back against plans to bring a Dollar General to their community.

A developer of Dollar General stores is considering building at the intersection of Back Creek Church Road and N.C. 801. Because the site is zoned rural agriculture a new store requires votes by the county Planning Board and Rowan County Board of Commissioners for rezoning to commercial use. Planning Director Ed Muire told the Post no application had been submitted, meaning that Wednesday’s meeting represented a step before zoning hearings began.

Mary Kathryn Colbert, of Dollar General, said the company is in its “due-diligence phase” for a new store.

“We are reviewing the opportunity to add a new store in the area, but we have not committed to doing so just yet,” Colbert said.

Joe Strickland — director of operations at Teramore Development, proposing to build the store — listened Wednesday to numerous residents speak against having a Dollar General at the site because they said it would deteriorate the historic and agricultural community of Mount Ulla. 

Strickland told those gathered he would relay the community’s input to Dollar General and Teramore — the same developer that was the target of concerns earlier this year from Rockwell-area residents opposing a store at the intersection of Organ Church Road and N.C. 152. The Rockwell store received county commissioner approval last month, but at each juncture in recent years, Dollar General store proposals across Rowan County have seen local opposition.

“I heard your concerns and appreciate it,” Strickland said. “I’ll take it back. It didn’t fall on deaf ears. That’s why I’m here tonight, to listen, and I hope everyone understands. I do understand the outcry here, and I’ll report back. I can’t promise anything.”

More than 100 people came to speak against the Dollar General on Wednesday, some wearing hats or carrying signs saying “No DG.”

They argued that a Dollar General would not be appropriate for the community that is known for its rural setting and historic homes. 

“It’s not a problem with your store,” Susan Ramsey said. “We’re just proud of our territory. We would be grateful to maintain the integrity of our property in our area. It’s not the fact that Dollar General is a bad store or would bring bad things. It is not appropriate in our area.”

Marian Rollans noted that Mount Ulla is home to Patterson Farm, Lazy 5 Ranch and the Barn Quilt Trail. The community is known and appreciated by locals and visitors for its farmland, she said.

“You are not bringing a cow,” Rollans said. “You are not bringing trees. You are not bringing a barn. You are not in keeping with the character of this area.”

Several others spoke about safety concerns if a store is built on Back Creek Church Road. Some were also worried about an increase in crime.

Others said that although the store would bring nine jobs and $80,000 in tax revenue to the county, it’s not worth it to “ruin what’s Mount Ulla.”

Robert Barber, owner of the property where the store would be built, said the land is under contract until the end of the year. He expressed regret, explaining to the crowd that he had inherited the land and was looking to sell it and retire in Virginia.

Some asked County Commissioner Mike Caskey to come forward to address their concerns. Caskey said he could not speak about whether he would favor the rezoning for Dollar General because it has not been brought before the county board.

“I do get a lot of calls and a lot of emails every time a Dollar General pops up. And I don’t know what it is about Dollar Generals, but people get one way or another,” Caskey said.

He compared the approval of plans for a Rockwell Dollar General to the proposed store in Mount Ulla. The parcel the Dollar General would sit on would have to be rezoned, creating a split zoning, which is when one parcel in an area is zoned differently than surrounding parcels. He said that is a grave concern to him.

Caskey said he plans to discuss the comments made at the meeting with his fellow commissioners.

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