DADE CITY — Homeowners in Autumn Oaks neighborhood walked away disappointed Thursday when top county planners refused to get involved in their dispute with the developer of a Dollar General that has an entrance into their subdivision.
Residents of the 265-home community at the Pasco-Hernando line wanted county officials to agree to enforce a deal being worked out between the homeowners association and the St. Petersburg-based developers. The conditions mainly involved adding buffering between the back of the store and houses to hide it from residents' view. Residents also were asking for a traffic study, which the company did not have to conduct under land use rules.
But county officials, sitting as the Development Review Committee, refused to act as enforcers of any contract worked out between the parties.
"Is your group going to pay the county?" Assistant County Attorney David Goldstein asked. "You're asking us to enforce a private obligation. Explain to me why the taxpayers of Pasco County should spend money to enforce these conditions."
Committee members agreed to postpone the appeal for two weeks so the groups could work out a private deal. Attorneys on both sides were present, but their clients were not, so nothing could be signed immediately. The homeowners group could seek relief in court should the developer not honor the agreement.
Steve Booth, attorney for the developer, said his clients followed all codes and expressed concern that the building's certificate of occupancy might be delayed. But County Administrator John Gallagher said the county doesn't have the authority to withhold it if all the rules were followed.
A handful of residents who attended the meeting said they weren't notified that the store was approved, They said they found after construction began. The rules say that only adjacent property owners must be notified. One resident did get a letter, but at the last minute, he said.
"This is disgusting," said resident Ilene Grim, whose home is in view of the store, which is nearly finished.
The county approved the paperwork for the store on Jan. 17. Autumn Oaks Homeowners Association filed an appeal.
The 9,026 square foot store would be on 1.6 acres at the southwest corner of County Line Road and Winding Oaks Boulevard in Hudson.
In addition to their landscaping and buffering issues, residents are concerned about potential traffic issues, too. They worry that the location of the store entrance along Winding Oaks Boulevard will encourage cars and commercial delivery vehicles to make a right turn onto Winding Oaks Boulevard into the Autumn Oaks subdivision, then make a U-turn or a right turn on Echo Mountain Drive, which runs directly through the neighborhood.
They asked for a traffic study and additions safeguards to minimize the impact and encourage customers to turn left on Winding Oaks Boulevard and proceed directly to County Line Road.
This isn't the first time in the past year that dollar stores have drawn residents' ire in Pasco.
In February, San Antonio officials approved a Family Dollar and Dollar General to open within 300 feet of each other. Family Dollar, prompted residents of the adjacent Rosewood neighborhood to express fears of traffic overrunning their community. Officials proposed blocking off a nearby street as a solution.
Dollar stores, which have thrived during the recession, have been popping up all over the country.
Last year the number of dollar stores (21,537) owned by the three dominant chains, Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree, surged ahead of the number of drugstores (20,155) owned by Walgreen Co., CVS and Rite Aid. This year the gap widens as the trio opens 1,375 dollar stores compared with 400 drugstores.