FRANKLIN — More than 100 were in attendance Thursday of a special meeting of the Franklin Town Planning Board to discuss the proposed development of a Dollar General.

Planning board members made clear that the meeting did not constitute an official public hearing and that there is no active application from Dollar General or its developers currently before the board.

“Typically, at this stage, we would have already submitted an application,” said Bob Gage, senior vice president of development services at GBT Realty, a Tennessee-based development firm contracted with Dollar General.

Gage said his company requested the meeting to hear concerns from local residents that had arisen even before the project was formally proposed, noting that Dollar General itself would not be sending any delegates to discuss the proposed store with town officials and residents, and that their earliest opportunity to do such would be through the general manager when the store opens.

“We do not want to come down or push anything down your throats,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors.”

Gage said his company has little to do with the local research in siting potential new store locations, but said Dollar General typically looks to develop in municipalities with 1,200 residents and a median annual income of $40,000.

There are about 12 dollar store brands currently in the market, according to Gage, but Dollar General — like its competitor, Family Dollar — considers itself to be in a different class than the “everything’s-a-buck” brands like Dollar Tree.

Dollar General considers its business model a “turn-of-the-century general store,” Gage said, and tries to source its products from the United States as much as possible, likening its business practices to Walmart. 

Under the agreement between the retailer and the developer, GBT would purchase the land, construct the building “from the ground up” and lease it to Dollar General, Gage said.

“The lease agreement has teeth,” he said, noting that the retailer would be responsible for building and grounds upkeep and maintenance and that GBT could impose penalties on the store if certain standards were not met.

Some residents voiced concerns about the longevity of the store, to which Gage responded that in the nine years his company has contracted with Dollar General, each of the more than 700 stores constructed has remained open.

Dollar General requires each of its stores to gross a minimum of $1.2 million in sales to stay open, Gage said, noting that the sales contribute to the local tax base.

As part of the proposal process, the development firm would need to request a variance from the town’s zoning ordinance, which requires a minimum 1,000-foot distance between commercial properties and residential ones in a residential zone, Gage said.

Gage said the company had considered other sites in and around the town, but identified the parcel near the intersection of state Route 357 and county Route 21 as the most optimal.

“Dollar General wants to be here,” he said. “They want to serve your community.”

The proposed store would be 9,130 square feet with 30-space parking lot, he said. The company would spend a little over $1 million developing the property and constructing the store, which would employ 10 local workers to start and hire as many as five more.

Gage said the company has flexible design options to fit the character of the communities it joins, suggesting that a wood-framed, garrison-style roof model would fit in Franklin better than the store’s traditional flat-roofed model.

Franklin resident Bryan Hickman shared his concept of the community’s brand, defining the term as “what people say of you when you are not in the room.”

“I’m going to use the word ‘brand’ because corporate America understands ‘brand,’” he said. 

“Franklin has a brand,” Hickman continued. “The people in this room are passionate about their brand.”

After 27 years of living in Delhi, Hickman said he was drawn to Franklin “because the brand of Franklin runs deep. It’s authentic. It’s real.”

“This community has a brand, and it’s not built on cheap stuff, cheaply,” he said.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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