Micanopy citizens lost their battle to prevent a Dollar General from being built at the intersection of SR 441 and Tuscawilla Road Thursday.
The Development Review Committee voted to approve the project, allowing a Dollar General and stormwater facility to occupy the space.
In the quasi-judicial meeting that lasted more than six hours, multiple parties of Micanopians explained why they thought the proposal failed to meet county and state requirements and should be refused.
After the meeting, Micanopy resident Homer Moore, who spoke at the meeting, said the ruling dismayed him, but he and others had only been cautiously optimistic of their chance to win.
“We're not going to let it upset us beyond any appropriate means,” Moore said.
Marcy LaHart, who represented five Micanopy citizens, said the project could be stopped for historical and ecological reasons while focusing on three other reasons.
First, she claimed the building plan fails to follow the vernacular architecture of the surrounding area—a county requirement.
Second, the proposed Dollar General would increase the traffic on Tuscawilla Road, a “scenic road” as proclaimed by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.
Commercial vehicles over 25 tons are the primary concern. Because of the “scenic road” designation, trucks above that weight limit are prohibited from Tuscawilla Road, but the Dollar General would need large trucks to drop off supplies.
Multiple residents also expressed concern that the increased traffic would pose a threat to the pedestrians and bikers who use Tuscawilla Road.
The third argument said the Dollar General threatened public safety because of its parking lot was small (only 30 spots) and poorly configured.
Other residents spoke to the potential historical nature of the site, near where the Battle of Micanopy occurred in 1836. An initial Phase 1 study found indigenous artifacts, but the Florida Historical Society never filed for a more in-depth Phase 2 survey, stating insufficient evidence.
Jerry Brewington, senior planner for the county, said the Dollar General specifications do meet the county’s code requirements for vernacular architecture, and staff approved the application as a whole, noting that the site doesn’t meet the requirements for the National Historic Preservation Act.
The applicant brought its own experts, as well, that rebutted arguments. Ultimately, David Theriaque, attorney for the applicant, said the property is outside of the Town of Micanopy and the area included in the National Historic District.
He said the notion that a Dollar General at the location would lead to Micanopy’s fall from a tourist attraction fails to make sense to him.
Moore disagrees. He says SR 441 is already littered with abandoned buildings that could be used for the store instead of cutting down the trees on the site.
“We don’t need anymore Red Lobsters, we don’t need any more Olive Gardens, we don’t need any more Dollar Generals,” Moore said in a phone interview.
Those businesses have a place, he said, and people do frequent them. But Moore thinks the Dollar General will detract from small businesses in the area and perhaps end up like those other abandoned buildings.
Since around March, Moore has worked with others in the area to stop the proposal from moving forward, dipping into their own pockets to create a newsletter of 150 hard copies and 375 emails.
“I’m just so proud of how everybody did,” he said, adding that they had successfully mounted a stiff resistance.
He felt the whole operation was tilted in the favor of the developers, a problem for small Florida towns. Developers have money to hire the experts and lawyers needed. They also know the development scene day in and day out.
“In the end, we’re just citizens, we're just people,” Moore said. “We don’t necessarily have any expertise.”
He said the system allows business the upperhand. County staff lack the time to study every issue with the intensity of a developer or even citizens who dedicate months on one issue.
“It would be unrealistic to think they could get their microscopes out and look at every comma and period,'' Moore said.
He said the county employees had been very responsive to the citizens and had, in good faith, looked at the development plan to square it with the county law.
It’s a disheartening loss after so much time and money was spent opposing the Dollar General.
“It is disappointing,” Moore said. “Now frankly, I don't spend any extra time worrying about what I can't control.”