APOLLO BEACH — For the last two weekends, Apollo Beach residents have gathered on the corner of Fairway Boulevard and Apollo Beach Boulevard to protest the building of a stand-alone Dollar General on the site.
They're hoping to garner 1,000 signatures on an online petition to send to Dollar General's Florida real estate manager, Kevin Gromosaik.
Resident Edward Perez, who has lived in the area for three years, believes the store will change the aesthetic of the community.
"If you look around here, what you see are beautiful homes, all residential in a nice area," Perez said. "There are a lot of things they could put here, but Dollar General is just not a good fit for the area. We'd prefer a park or a playground or another small business."
Many residents also cite the increased traffic it may bring to the location, within walking distance of Apollo Beach Elementary School.
"There are 670 students that attend that elementary school," said resident Jamie Saracino. "There have been traffic fatalities as it is. This is going to ruin our community."
In a statement, Dollar General said they are considering the customer's best interest in regards to the new location. Dollar General currently has 36 stores in Hillsborough County.
The statement also indicated that Dollar General officials are considering relocating its store at 6422 U.S. 41 to the site in question, but has not committed to the relocation. It's doing "due diligence" and expects to make a final decision in late spring 2017.
"Should we move forward with the project, the new store would provide area residents with an expanded retail store including a wider assortment of product offerings including additional cooler doors for perishable items," the statement said. "We know convenience is a major factor in our customers' shopping decisions as we generally serve customers within a 3- to 5-mile radius. We also take demographic trends, competitive factors, traffic patterns and community concerns into consideration."
The property, which was zoned for commercial use by the county in 1979, has remained vacant since, but last November site plans were approved by the county for Dollar General to occupy the space.
Perez said he didn't find out about the plan until the middle of February.
Residents have also enlisted the help of County Commissioner Sandra Murman, who says she is on their side with the situation and planning a meeting with Perez and his wife, Kendall.
"Our staff and I are working hard for a potential solution to this situation and I want you to know that I am extremely disappointed about this project with a commercial building in the middle of a residential neighborhood," Murman wrote in an email. "Whatever happens on this, I do plan to ask staff to bring a recommendation back to the board to prevent this type of problem from happening again."
Hillsborough County Development Services Director Adam Gormly believes that once the residents are given the facts surrounding Dollar General's move to the location, they will have a better understanding of the project's approval.
"We're planning on hosting some area residents here on Friday (March 3) to present the facts associated with this project," Gormly said.
By Tuesday, the residents' petition had 830 signatures out of the expected 1,000 before it is sent to Gromosaik.
"We want Dollar General to know we're not going to support them," Kendall Perez said. "People like them now, where they are next to Publix but we won't support them moving to this location."
Contact Kelsey Sunderland at firstname.lastname@example.org.