Neighbors, residents and visitors banded together Thursday evening in their opposition to a Dollar General store being located anywhere north of Sturgeon Bay, and specifically within the Town of Egg Harbor.
The setting was the town’s virtual public hearing for a 9,100-square-foot building proposed for where Highway 42 meets Hillside Road next to the Egg Harbor Fun Park. Developer Peter Oleszczuk of Midwest Property Development would then lease the store back to Dollar General, a Tennessee-based discount chain store.
The purpose of the meeting was to receive feedback and answer questions from the public. Once that concluded about two and a half hours later, the town board adjourned. The proposal will now go before the town’s Architectural Control Commission on March 8.
The Zoom meeting’s cap of 100 participants was met soon after the hearing opened, with additional capacity available with a call-in option. Thirty-nine of the participants spoke against the development. But first, Oleszczuk and a colleague, Jim Lundberg, spent about 15 minutes talking about their site and architectural plans for a wood-clad, shingle-roof building with a cupola design accent.
“This is really something that fits the aesthetics for the community,” Oleszczuk said, “knowing the typical Dollar General was by no means going to fit the area.”
Speakers did not agree. They said people driving to Northern Door along a road designated as a National Scenic Byway would not want to see the long roofline of a Dollar General.
“Ninety-one hundred square feet is roughly the size of the Piggly Wiggly [in Sister Bay] before the expansion,” said Meg Stapleton. “This is a huge building squeezed on a 2.5-acre lot near residences.”
Stapleton had initiated a petition last fall to oppose the Dollar General when Oleszczuk first made an application with the town. The group – We Are Eggs Against Dollar General – distributed yard signs protesting the retail chain’s presence in Northern Door and gathered 2,850 signatures on the petition. It also hired an attorney, Tyler Pluff of Pinkert Law Firm, who presented the group’s reasons for opposition during the hearing.
The biggest of those, Pluff said, were traffic related, a concern many echoed.
“It’s an unsafe intersection,” said Tammy Schleicher, who owns the Egg Harbor Fun Park with her husband, Mark, next to the proposed store. “We hear about the accidents, but you don’t hear about the close calls.”
The site plan showed 30 parking spaces for the store, which would be set back about 112 feet from the highway, with the main entrance off Hillside Road. Highway 42 has a speed limit of 55 mph, with no turn lanes for Hillside Road.
“The town would be remiss in not requiring a traffic study,” said Jeff Clark, the owner of two units at the Landmark Resort across the highway from the proposed development. Clark said he practiced law for 40 years, largely representing both developers and municipalities.
Many speakers said the retail chain store didn’t fit Door County’s brand as a land of natural beauty, quaint villages and small businesses. They also said the discount store would harm local businesses that already meet the community’s needs.
“We have fully stocked grocery stores and a hardware store and local businesses doing a great job feeding our community,” said local resident Ann Harvey. “We don’t need you. This is not sustainable development. It’s unhealthy food, unhealthy options. Seriously, take this back, please.”
The opposition also said the town should place a lot of weight on the 20-year Comprehensive Plan. Adopted in 2009, the plan itself explains how it should be used: as a “legal document that serves as a guidance tool for both officials and citizens to make decisions about future growth and development in the town.” The town’s General Plan Design map shows “rural/agricultural” use where the proposed Dollar General area would be constructed.
“As we see it, according to our town ordinance, the proposed structure must conform to the general area and character of the area,” said local resident Bill Freyman, “and we don’t think it does.”
Jim Schultz – speaking on behalf of the Bayshore Property Owners Association, which includes 370 members within Egg Harbor and Sevastopol – recommended the town place a moratorium on development on the Highway 42 corridor until it gets decision-making guidelines in place.
“Development pressure in Door County is on the increase, so now is the time to get that in place,” he said. “Your decision on the Dollar General is of extreme importance and could determine the future direction of the community.”
Only two people spoke in favor of the project, saying they like Dollar General and thought local shopping options were too expensive.
With so much opposition, local resident Wendy Beilfuss wanted to know, “Why here? Why are you putting it here?”
Oleszczuk said their data show the store would serve a market area.
“We feel we can fill a need outside Sturgeon Bay,” he said. “I understand everyone else’s opinion; however, we have a different opinion.”