Residents urged the Zachary City Council on Nov. 25 to consider the potential traffic hazards a new Dollar General store would bring to Old Scenic Highway (La. 964) if the rezone of a parcel of land was granted.
The agenda item called for a public hearing of the Charles Harelson tract that Dollar General representative Ed Voltolina asked the council to rezone from commercial suburban to commercial general to make way for a 9,000-square-foot storefront.
Zachary has two Dollar General locations: 5514 Main St. and 20131 Plank Road, as well as a Family Dollar and Dollar Tree.
“This part of Old Scenic is already congested. The traffic is terrible,” said resident Melanie Amrhein, who lives near the lot.
“I just want to point that out for the record, that is my sister-in-law, but I can’t vote on this. She’s here on her own,” Mayor David Amrhein said. “Look, we’re not against businesses coming to Zachary, but we just want them to be built in a safe manner. I’d be interested in seeing how the state plans to make this a safe entrance and exit.”
Voltolina told the council that the company already has its DOT permit and approval from planning and zoning.
“Yes, the state can give you approval, but the city can deny you,” David Amrhein said.
Leslie Taylor, who lives on Eagle Street, also spoke against the rezone.
“We’re constantly helping people get out of the ditch there, and I’m just concerned about a big store coming and bringing all the traffic with it,” Taylor said.
Voltolina countered by saying there is light industrial presence in the area, and it’s not strictly residential.
Councilman Brandon Noel, a real estate agent, noted that the lighter commercial suburban zoning allows for 5,000 square feet of a standalone building, but the retail store is asking for the council to approve a building nearly twice the size.
“It’s zoned that way today for a reason, limiting what can be built there,” Noel said.
Voltolina said the company is asking for a parcel of the land to be rezoned, not the entire six acres.
Councilman Francis Nezianya, who agreed the store would bring traffic problems, made a motion to deny the rezone that was seconded by Councilman Dan Wallis.
Noel, Councilmen John Coghlan and Tommy Womack all voted for the motion, denying Dollar General’s request.
In other business, the city council signed off on a cooperative endeavor agreement and settlement with Midla pipeline, an interstate pipeline, crossing Louisiana and Mississippi that connects nine parishes and 12 municipalities, including Zachary.
Last year, Midla’s new owners, ArcLight Capital, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to abandon the pipeline citing safety concerns. The move would have left thousands without natural gas service.
“I’ve never seen a major pipeline threaten to shut down service like this,” Arnold told the council. “But your decision tonight is a fairly simple one. For other Midla members, it’s not so simple an issue.”
ArcLight eventually reached a new deal with FERC and Midla members in October agreeing to build a new 50-mile, 12-inch pipeline replacing the 87-year-old, eight-inch one.
The new Natchez pipeline will connect Winnsboro to Natchez, Mississippi, and serve Jonesville, Sicily Island, Clayton and Vidalia. Midla also will pay for nearly all of the transition costs of putting those not served by the new Natchez line on some other form of gas or propane service.
Midla members not served by the new line include Clinton, Jackson, Slaughter, St. Francisville and gas utility districts in East and West Feliciana.
“Because of Americana, you had to tap in to Florida Gas to proceed with development, so you’ve already taken care of yourselves,” said C.J. Arnold, of Blackbelt Energy.
By signing the settlement agreement, Zachary will receive $475,000 from Midla reimbursing the city for interconnection costs with Florida Gas. Amrhein said the decision was a win-win for Zachary.
The council voted to add another property to its condemnation list.
Zachary building inspector Scott Masterson cited rotting floor joists, a failing foundation, termite damage and a bee infestation as reasons the dwelling at 6210 East Central Ave. should be condemned.
Other structures on the list have included 5337 and 5305 Church St., 5960 Rollins Road and 4760 West Central Ave.
The Zachary City Council will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9.