The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 13, 2012

Dollar store closer to becoming reality in Conneaut

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Members of Conneaut's Planning Commission gave their tentative approval Wednesday night to a new Dollar General store to be built early next year in the city's downtown district.

The panel's full and final blessing could come next month, after city administrators try to secure refinements to the proposed project.

At issue is a 9,100 square foot store that would occupy the northwest corner of a parcel bordered by State Street to the north, Harbor Street to the east, Washington Street to the west and an alley on the south. A handful of buildings, including an old gas station, would be demolished to make room for the store.

John Wojtila, senior development manager for Zaremba Retail Co., presented a proposed site plan to the commission. Shoppers would drive onto the property from State Street, while delivery trucks would use the alley off Washington Street, he said.

Zaremba has three separate properties under contract, and the deals would close once all permits are obtained, Wojtila said. Permits should be secured by March and construction would start soon after, he said.

The store will have approximately 32 parking spaces. "That's a lot more than you have now," Wojtila joked, referencing the Dollar General that occupies a storefront at the corner of Main and Washington streets, a few steps from the proposed building site.

Commission members had questions about the store's appearance. Some said they hoped it could mimic somewhat the architecture of nearby buildings, which include the Conneaut Telephone Company and newly-renovated Cleveland Hotel.

As first drawn, the exterior would blend masonry and metal walls, Wojtila said. Initially, it was set to resemble a new Dollar General in Jefferson.

However, the city is seeking some changes in the design that could include "different material," such as awnings, canopies and decorative lighting, Wojtila said. Zaremba is willing to incorporate the ideas as long as the final result remains budget friendly, he said.

Water and sewer lines that exist in the area should be suitable for the project, commission members learned.

Zaremba has a two-year relationship with Dollar General, having built stores for the retail giant in 10 states, Wojtila said.

Commission members should receive a final plan, possibly reflecting some the changes sought by  the city, in time for January's meeting, said City Manager Tim Eggleston. He praised Zaremba's willingness to adjust the design.

"They're willing to work to make that corridor the corridor we want it to be," he said.

Ron Maki, commission chairman, said he was pleased with the project.

"I think it will be good for Conneaut," he said. "I don't see any major issues."

In related news, the Conneaut Zoning Board of Appeals tonight is expected to receive an application for a variance related to a second Dollar General store, this one scheduled to rise in the area of West Main (Route 20) and Gore roads. The developer is the same one that wanted to build at West Main and Parrish roads but denied the necessary zoning change a few months ago by City Council.