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Councilman concerned about more traffic near Dollar General's planned site

The Jamestown City Council read the first reading of an ordinance in November to amend the district map to change the zoning to a local commercial district where Dollar General plans to locate.

traffic for dollar general store area 112922.jpg
Traffic can be seen Tuesday morning, Nov. 29, 2022, at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 5th Street Northeast in Jamestown. Jamestown City Councilman Dan Buchanan is concerned about more traffic in the area where Dollar General plans to locate at 424 4th Ave. NE, which is south of the Legacy Living Center seen in this photo.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – A Jamestown city councilman is concerned about more traffic in the area of the proposed location for Dollar General, especially near an elementary school, and said the store should not be located at the proposed site.

Dan Buchanan said the traffic around the area where Dollar General plans to locate – 424 4th Ave. NE - is much worse than he thought.

“They (Dollar General) are going to add another element of traffic there,” he said. “You can drive by there several times a day. It’s so damn busy.”

The North Dakota Department of Transportation has calculated traffic between certain streets on 5th Avenue Northeast. Fifth Avenue Northeast, which is also N.D. Highway 20, runs north and south to the east of the Legacy Living Center. Fifthth Street Northeast runs east and west and is the street south of the Legacy Living Center.

In 2019, the average daily traffic was 9,825 vehicles on 5th Avenue Northeast between 5th and 6th Street Northeast, according to the NDDOT's transportation information map . On 5th Street Northeast between 4th and 5th Street Northeast, the average daily traffic was 7,345 vehicles in 2019, and the average daily truck traffic was 135. In 2016, the average daily traffic was 2,500 on 5th Street Northeast between 4th and 5th Avenue Northeast.

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Dollar General requested a change in zoning from a general multiple dwelling district to a local commercial district to allow for the construction of a new retail store at 424 4th Ave. NE. The property affected is lot 1, block 1 of the Hope Apostolic Addition. The lot was replatted in 2019 when Hope Apostolic Church planned to construct a new church building on the site.

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The Jamestown Planning Commission recommended approval in October to change the zoning to commercial where Dollar General plans to locate. At its November meeting, the Jamestown City Council read the first reading of an ordinance to amend the district map to change the zoning to a local commercial district where Dollar General plans to locate. Buchanan was opposed when the Jamestown Building, Planning and Zoning Committee approved 4-1 recommending the first reading of the ordinance.

The Jamestown City Council could hold the second reading of the ordinance at its meeting Monday, Dec. 5. A public hearing concerning the ordinance is on the City Council’s agenda. Final approval requires a roll call vote from the City Council.

Buchanan said he is considering making a motion to take the potential second reading of the ordinance off of the agenda and moving it back to the committee level but he thinks that it will fail.

“Just delay acting on this,” he said, referring to what he would like to see happen. “I’m not sure where I’m going to get two votes.”

He said Dollar General should not be located in the proposed area.

“It should be in some other commercial district in some other part of town,” he said.

Buchanan said only one lot in the Hope Apostolic Addition is being rezoned, which makes no sense. No other lot in the Hope Apostolic Addition is zoned as a local commercial district.

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In the 2015 Land Use and Transportation Plan, lot 1, block 1 of the Hope Apostolic Addition is slated as a local commercial district. The property where the Legacy Living Center is located is zoned as a local commercial district, according to the city zoning map.

The location for Dollar General was chosen because the lot is slated as a local commercial district, it is near a highway since 5th Avenue Northeast is also N.D. Highway 20, the roads near the location have good traffic counts, and the store will be within walking distance to many residents and University of Jamestown students, said Tyler Oliver, owner of Colby Capital LLC, a preferred developer of Dollar General.

He said the storefront will face the intersection of 5th Street and 5th Avenue Northeast. The main access to the store’s parking lot was proposed to come off of 5th Avenue Northeast, but the North Dakota Department of Transportation did not approve the submitted driveway application from 5th Avenue Northeast/N.D. Highway 20 onto the property, Tom Blackmore, Jamestown zoning administrator, wrote in an email.

Oliver said the main access into the parking lot will be on 5th Street Northeast from the alley between 4th and 5th Avenue Northeast.

Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said the main access being on 5th Street Northeast is better than being on 5th Avenue Northeast.

Buchanan said he thinks there should be an access from 4th Avenue Northeast into the parking lot because it would probably be a lot safer than coming off of 5th Street or 5th Avenue Northeast.

The zoning change to a local commercial district is contingent on the removal of an access from 4th Avenue Northeast. If the zoning change is approved, the removal of the access would not apply to the next tenant of the lot.

Concerns about traffic congestion

Buchanan said he is worried about Dollar General being in close proximity to Lincoln Elementary School. He is worried about the students and motorists with more traffic congestion in the area and the neighborhood concerns in the staff report for Dollar General’s zone change application.

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The staff report says some neighbors have expressed concerns about the appropriateness of the proposed use of the lot within the existing neighborhood setting. The report says residents may have concerns about development aesthetics, access to healthy food, the store’s associated customer base generally being those with lower incomes, hours of operations and the site’s proximity to Lincoln Elementary School.

“There is some justification for these concerns, but it is important to note that the City of Jamestown has limited recourse to deny the development proposal, because the proposed zone change is consistent with the land use/comprehensive plan and the proposed land use is a permitted use within the C-1 Local Commercial District,” the report says. “If the zone change is approved, the development would have to comply with the requirements of the C-1 district, but the City would not be able to attach additional conditions to help address neighborhood concerns, because the proposed use is permitted by right.”

Blackmore said at the Jamestown Building, Planning and Zoning Committee meeting in October that protest notification letters were sent to the surrounding property owners, including the Jamestown Public School District, but the city of Jamestown never received any back at that time. He wrote in an email that the city of Jamestown received a letter from Rob Lech, superintendent of the school district, after the deadline that was provided on the zoning map amendment notification letter sent by the city planner.

Lech said as soon as he was aware of the letter, the school district expressed concern about traffic congestion throughout the day near Lincoln Elementary School.

Depending on the year, Lincoln Elementary School has anywhere between 200 to 225 students plus teachers and staff, Lech said. He said the traffic during pickup and drop-off times is pretty significant, and he is concerned about traffic congestion and student safety.

“There is already a very congested area throughout drop-off and pickup times,” he said. “I just think that they should be aware of that concern when they make those decisions.”

Oliver said Dollar General is not a heavy traffic generator, and the store averages about 10 vehicles per hour and about 140 transactions per day by vehicle.

“It’s nothing like a convenience store, gas station,” he said. “It’s not even close.”

He said Dollar General opens at 8 a.m. but the traffic at that time for the store is very minimal. He said the peak hours are from 5 to 7 p.m.

“Parents picking up their kids from school at 3:30, 4 o’clock, that’s not a busy time for Dollar General,” he said. “That doesn’t start until 5 o’clock when people are getting off of work.”

Heinrich said the traffic could be less than what it was when Jamestown Hospital was located at the site where the Legacy Living Center now operates. The Jamestown Hospital was located where the Legacy Living Center now is.

“We didn’t have any concerns while the hospital was there,” he said.

Heinrich said he recently drove by many dollar stores while he went on a 2,000-mile round trip from Michigan to Georgia. He said it was very seldom that he saw a large number of vehicles in the parking lots of dollar stores.

Buchanan questioned whether the City Council has thought the whole issue through of Dollar General being located at the proposed site and if the council has considered what all of the impacts would be.

“I compliment Councilman Buchanan for bringing this up in such a way so everybody is aware of what is being proposed because that’s important for everyone when these decisions are being made,” Heinrich said. “ … Any concerns of traffic are not sufficient for the city to stop this development.”

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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