PALM HARBOR — Looking back on it, Sharon Agner says one reason her Virginia Avenue neighborhood succeeded in stopping construction of a Family Dollar store was precisely why they didn't want the store in the first place.
"Virginia Avenue is a small, residential area. We are close neighbors. We worked together as neighbors to let the county commissioners know that we did not want a Family Dollar,'' said Agner, 71.
At the recent Pinellas County Commission meeting, almost a dozen residents, including Agner, spoke against construction of the store on the southeast corner of Virginia Avenue and Alt. U.S. 19.
"We all felt that this was not a good location for a general merchandise store,'' Agner said.
After hearing concerns about congestion and traffic issues, as well as the possibility of losing a mature canopy of live oak trees, commissioners denied the request to change the land use and zoning on the property so the Avid Group of Palm Harbor could build a Family Dollar there.
Greg Nowak of Vantage Properties Inc., a commercial real estate firm working with landowner Patriot Bank and the Avid Group, attempted during the meeting to ease concerns about traffic at the site, which is across the street from the Palm Harbor Post Office.
Nowak said residents would not see a big increase in traffic on Virginia Avenue. "The DOT has a traffic count of 1,400 cars per day on Virginia Avenue," he said. "We are not going to increase that by any stretch of the imagination."
But several residents were not convinced. Ron Cook described the intersection of Virginia and Alt. U.S. 19 as one of the most dangerous he has ever seen. He called the traffic count of 1,400 "absurd."
Carol Hewett, a disability lawyer who practices in Palm Harbor, said she would like to see professional offices return to the property. The last tenant, C&N Publishing, left about two years ago. "We don't need minimum wage commerce in old Palm Harbor,'' she said. "I think (Family Dollar) is incompatible for a number of reasons. Burger King failed in Palm Harbor. …We like to eat our breakfast and lunch at our neighbors' businesses."
Commissioner Susan Latvala, who made the motion for the board to deny the request, described her personal experience of crossing Alt. U.S. 19.
"You have to get in the middle turn lane, say a couple prayers, and wait and dart,'' she said. "I think it's the wrong type of business to have there.''
Commissioners denied the zoning and land use changes 6-0.
Piper Castillo can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4163. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters or mail to 710 Court St., Clearwater, 33756.