Geraldine Otremba, Cascade Resident
On August 2, the Washington County Zoning Board voted 4-1 to approve a new Dollar General Market that has been hotly opposed by local residents for two years as not in character with the unincorporated community’s rural setting. The applicant seeking a “special exception,” Outdoor Contractors Inc., has been seeking the exception to construct the store in what is recognized as a rural village zone.
The zoning board’s authority to grant an exception rests on the criterion of compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood. Special exceptions allowed include B&B’s, farm stands, and grocery stores. Cascade residents opposed to adding another Dollar General in Cascade filled the hearing room (three Dollar General stores are nearby in Blue Ridge Summit, and Wayne Heights, PA, and Emmitsburg, MD) and rallied around the town’s long-established grocery store, Sanders Market, which has provided fresh meat, produce, deli, and a full array of products for 60 years.
The zoning board first approved a special exception for the proposed Dollar General in May of last year. Cascade residents appealed the decision to the Washington County Circuit Court, which sent the appeal back to the Zoning Board to re-consider the request as a single special exception use.
The zoning board heard presentations from Outdoor Contractors and opponents of the project.
One resident testified in support of the exception, based on the allegation that the proposed Dollar General was “functionally similar” to a grocery store. Residents from Cascade, Sabillasville, Frederick, Hagerstown, Blue Ridge Summit, and Waynesboro testified in opposition to the exception, citing Dollar General’s own legal and financial filings describing the business as a general merchandise entity.
Opponents also offered first-hand recent photographs from in-person visits to existing Dollar General Markets, highlighting limited grocery offerings and moldy produce. Much of the discussion among the members of the zoning board focused on what is a common understanding of a grocery store. In the end, Board Member Tim Ammons appeared persuaded by an undated, unidentified photo of grocery shelves and voted with chairs, Jay Miller, Marvin Gower, and Bob Meyers to approve the exception. The local opponents through their attorney have said a further appeal is likely