Litchfield News

Meeting on Dollar General in Morris draws a crowd (10-06-17)

Morris Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Robert McIntosh comments during Wednesday's discussion of the pending arrival of a Dollar General store in town. BZ photos

Dollar General is coming to Morris and there's nothing the town can do to stop it.

That was the message during a discussion the Planning and Zoning Commission held on the issue Wednesday. A crowd of more than 100 residents turned out for the meeting.

"There's no mechanism the town can use to prevent that development," commission Chairman Robert McIntosh said of the approved construction of a 7,544 square-foot building at 16 West St. that will be the home of Dollar General, a discount chain store with locations in 44 states.

Planning and zoning approved construction of the retail building in July but at the time, McIntosh and other members of the commission explained, wasn't aware that Dollar General would be the tenant. The developer of the lot at 16 West St., Garrett Homes LLC of Harwinton, at the time of approval claimed it didn't know who the tenant would be.

It wasn't until Monday, when a banner appeared at the site advertising it as the future site of Dollar General, that it became clear what was in store for Morris. McIntosh said he knew last week what was coming when Dollar General filed an application with planning and zoning seeking approval of its roadside sign.

"I had hoped it was only a rumor," planning and zoning commissioner Lisa Harrison said of speculation during the summer that Dollar General was eyeing Morris. "We didn't know it was going to be a Dollar General, not that we could have done anything about it."

The application Garrett Homes LLC filed with the commission, McIntosh noted, met all criteria needed for approval. 

"There were no grounds to deny it," he said.

Residents commenting at Wednesday's meeting expressed concern about the effect Dollar General will have on the character of the center of town.

"We're in danger of losing our small town because we don't have regulations to stop corporations from coming in," resident Kathryn Moncuse said. "Now is the time to stop it while we still can."

Although a Dollar General is a foregone conclusion, McIntosh said pressure from the community could help ensure a more acceptable look to the buildng at 16 West St. The developer, he added, has made changes to the design of the building upon the suggestion of planning and zoning.

Some residents questioned the viability of a Dollar General in Morris and suggested that a lack of business could doom it within a year or two. If Dollar General were to close, the building it will be located in would still be available for retail use because it's in a commercial zone, McIntosh said.

Below, the Town Hall meeting room was filled with concerned residents.