Smart Growth Rural Mendo Op-Ed: Dollar General Gets Its Way

Redwood Valley Market Loses Suit Against Dollar General

Judge Richard Henderson issued a decision on January 11, 2017, to deny the lawsuit by the Redwood Valley Market owners, Alex and Anthony Chehada, against Dollar General. The many Redwood Valley residents who attended the hearing in early December were forewarned by the judge that he sometimes had to make decisions against his personal preference, and seemed to characterize this decision as one he had to make. The points of law were all he could look at, and essentially he ruled that the legal appeal of the permit issuance was filed later than the 30-day statute of limitations. The fact that the County never made a personal contact with the Chehadas nor with their attorney, despite the County’s knowledge of the Chehadas’ objection to the permit, was not a relevant issue, as the County isn’t specifically required to do outreach other than a physical posting of information on a clipboard at the Planning and Building Services office. Therefore, nothing related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), regarding any environmental issues, was heard. The Zoning Code designating the Dollar General proposed site as a C-1 (Commercial) property, and the General Plan’s short and vague comments about Redwood Valley’s environment, constitute the sum total of environmental review that will be given to the project.

The ruling came as no surprise to the many local residents who have been following the issue since the June, 2015 granting of the permit. The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, while recognizing the high level of opposition to the project by the local community, basically said their “hands were tied” as to stopping a “permit by right” such as was granted to the Dolgen corporation (the parent company of the Dollar General stores). While Board members Carre Brown and  John McCowen voted against the development, approval was granted by three Board votes from Dan Gjerde, Dan Hamburg, and since-resigned Board member Tom Woodhouse, underscoring the limited power of a small community in the larger County governance process. Supervisor Brown recommended and has strongly supported formation of the Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council (RVMAC), as well as the Formula Store temporary Moratorium that was put in place in September of 2015. The draft ordinance is proposed to aid local community members throughout rural Mendocino County in shaping their neighborhoods by preventing unwanted chain or “formula” stores from moving in and dominating local commerce and community character.

It remains to be seen whether the RVMAC – in operation since June of 2016 – or the pending Formula Ordinance, will actually empower local residents to fight back substantively against further invasions by unwanted corporate interests. Only the active grassroots participation of a large group of local people will ensure that we have a greater say in the future of our local communities and all of Mendocino County. The pressures of development interests, populations priced out of the Bay Area, and speculators interested in less expensive land and labor, will either enhance or detract from the quality of life in Northern California. It’s time to get involved to define our future for ourselves, for the environment, and for the future of Redwood Valley. Visit the RVMAC website to find out how to participate and have your voice heard.

Meanwhile, an update on the Dollar General situation:

Over 130 local residents wrote to the Alcohol Beverage Control Department of the State of California months ago to protest the issuance of an alcohol license to Dollar General. ABC replied in December, 2016, with letters of response to many of the protestors. The letters proposed a conditional alcohol license for Dollar General, stating that the Sheriff had proposed limiting hours of sale (morning opening until 10 pm) and eliminating single serving sizes of beer and wine. Nothing was done to address the fact that Redwood Valley, and particularly the corner of School St. and East Road, is awash in alcohol sales locations. Since the fight against DG began, a store with off-sale alcohol has opened at the Coyote Valley convenience store and another is apparently being proposed for the Faizan convenience store/service station at North State St. fronting the 101.

Needless to say, protestors didn’t accept the terms of the DG conditional license as meeting their myriad concerns. ABC spokesperson Wendie McDonald explained that she is writing a report about the issue to her supervisor; that report will be sent from the Santa Rosa office of ABC to Sacramento. Thereafter, protestors should receive a letter offering the option of a public hearing in Mendocino County, to which protestors will need to reply in writing in the affirmative. A meeting will then be scheduled. Look to this website and the RVMAC website for further updates to this situation.

The City of Vista CA denied Dollar General an alcohol permit (the City has its own permit process for alcohol), and no Dollar General has been built. Alcohol generates large profits for Dolgen, both in direct sales and as “loss leaders” that tempt the public to come in and also buy other products. More alcohol outlets in Redwood Valley aren’t wanted or needed, so let’s hope public pressure continues and forces reconsideration of Dollar General’s business plan for Redwood Valley.

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About Lou Brooks

Lou Brooks is the administrator and night security guard here at the Smart Growth Rural Mendocino website.
This entry was posted in Chain Store Moratorium, County Planning Commission, dollar general, Formula Business Ordinance, Redwood Valley MAC and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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