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WARRENSBURG — A proposed Dollar General on Main Street drew an angry response from more than 50 residents Tuesday night at the town’s Planning Board meeting.

Several in attendance were left standing or sitting on the floor as many argued against the project for reasons ranging from increased traffic to the destruction of a historic building used in the Underground Railroad.

Most residents did not speak out explicitly against a Dollar General but opposed this particular location.

The location, 3847 Main St., is wedged between Main and Elm streets. The proposal is for a 9,100-square-foot building with a 27-space parking lot. The house used to serve as a senior center for the town but is currently owned by Paul Spooner and is being rented out to two separate tenants.

James Abdallah, a representative for the development company behind the construction, presented a preliminary plan to the board — essentially the prototype layout for any Dollar General.

He wants input from the board and community on the store’s design, he said.

Board members raised several issues with stormwater management, lighting, traffic and construction issues, and Abdallah said plenty of adjustments could be made.

“The developer has given me guidance to come and get your input first and as to what aspects you would like to see and then we would prepare, yes, some type of rendering that is above and beyond your typical Dollar General,” Abdallah said.

He said he would also have to go back to the developer for details on how often deliveries would be made, whether deliveries would be made at night and an estimate on how much traffic would increase.

“These are all the comments I would be hoping and was expecting in a preliminary submission like this,” he said.

The site is zoned hamlet mixed use, which allows for “smaller scale commercial” use.

Planning Board Chairwoman Laura Moore told the audience to bear in mind the design will change before any action is taken. Her main concerns were blending the façade with other architecture in the historic district and reducing the size of the building layout.

One of the main concerns raised by residents was traffic the store would bring to a location frequently passed by children on their way to school.

The site is less than a half-mile from the elementary school and about a quarter-mile from the town library.

Town resident Yvonne West said she lives across the street and it’s already a hassle to come and go with Main Street traffic, which will get worse if the store is built.

She also raised concerns about historical loss, saying the house’s role as a stop on the Underground Railroad is significant and should be preserved.

She was skeptical that any design would blend in with the surrounding architecture.

“No matter what you guys do with the signage, it’s still going to be an eyesore,” West said. “There are so many other locations that you can pick. Use the other buildings. Leave the history of the community.”

Most people in attendance voiced strong opposition to the plan. But Jim Hall owns one of the old buildings on Main Street, and he said, as much as he loves the history, the amount of work they require to become usable scares off many buyers.

People love the idea of moving into a historic building until they realize they’ll have to add hundreds of thousands in repairs and renovations to whatever they already paid.

“These things are dinosaurs,” he said. “Beautiful houses, but dinosaurs.”

Another resident, Janet Tolman, responded later, saying she had seen other communities, such as Hudson Falls, rally to buy historic buildings and seek out grants to help with repairs.

She said Warrensburg’s history was one of the things that convinced her to move there, and the investment in historical architecture could boost property values for the town in the long term.

“I don’t know if the passion I see in this room can organize itself into a group that would be willing to do that, but, if it does, I would put in the first $10,000,” Tolman said.

Since the property is owned privately, the group would have to convince Spooner to sell to them rather than the development firm.

Since the proposal was preliminary, the board decided to table discussion and schedule a public hearing for Dec. 3, when Abdallah’s firm can present an adjusted plan.

Moore said the decision is not a personal one. The decision will be based on whether the applicant meets criteria established in the town’s code.

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Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.

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