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Vermont Town Launches Fight Against 99-Cent Store

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When thinking of Vermont, big business isn’t what comes to mind. And its citizenry likes it that way. Along with one of the state’s biggest employers -- Unilever (UN) subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s -- the maple syrup, cheese, and teddy bear industries have served the people of Vermont quite well.

And there’s a reason those who don’t live there love to visit. The state is literally named for its lush environs -- vert (green) and mont (mountain) -- and its bucolic villages maintain a rustic quality that have managed to resist the carbon copy sprawl effect that’s homogenized the rest of small town America. Dotting its rolling farmlands are cattle and red barns, not strip malls. There were no big box retail chains in Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Vermont’s main streets.

The state has worked hard preserve its rural New England charm and restrict its commercial land use. In the entire state, amazingly, Walmart (WMT) has opened a total of four stores. Target (TGT), zero. But there is a threat creeping across the state’s retail landscape and it’s of the 99-cent variety.

Over two dozen dollar stores including Dollar General (DG), Dollar Tree (DLTR), and Family Dollar (FDO) locations have invaded Vermont. Now Dollar General has its sights set on the small southern town of Chester for its 16th Vermont location. But its residents aren’t giving up the 9,100-square-feet of real estate on South Main Street, where Dollar General wants to open shop, without a fight. Thus far, however, it’s been a losing battle.

Last month, Chester’s Development Review Board voted in favor of a Dollar General location, but with nearly three dozen conditions. Though the Dollar General won’t exactly blend in with the town’s nationally registered historic “Stone Village,” it will at least be required to look a little better than say, its downtown Detroit location. Among other aesthetic demands of the building are clapboard siding and indoor storage of shopping carts. Connecting the store via parking lot by covered bridge would also be a nice touch.

One thing still stands in Dollar General’s way. It must clear the hurdle that is Act 250, the Land Use and Development Act that gives regional boards the power to reject development based on a number of environmental and zoning criteria. At least one group in opposition to the project plans to file an appeal with the environmental division of Vermont Superior Court.
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