The 19th-century home at the corner of South Street and West Mountain Road will be demolished to make way for a Dollar General.
CHESHIRE, Mass. – Neighbors are unhappy with a proposed Dollar General Store but town officials say there's nothing they can do about it.
The 19th-century Second Empire-influenced mansion at 12 South St. will be knocked down to make way for the plain-box discount store.
Selectmen told abuttors who attended Tuesday's meeting that they have little control over development along that stretch because of Cheshire's old zoning laws.
The discount store passes the current zoning requirements and building permits and can build by right because the property is commercially zoned.
Jill Balawender-Reynolds, owner of Cheshire Glassworks, shared her concerns because her store is next to the property.
"My shop is right next door, and I worry about that," Balawender-Reynolds said. "I am afraid of what it's going to look like, and ... I don't think it is a good fit for Cheshire."
Her husband, Jeff Reynolds, asked if there were more restrictions that the town could put on the store to make it look more in sync with Cheshire architecture.
"They are one of the ugliest buildings known to man," he said.
Town Administrator Mark Webber explained that Dollar General does not have to comply to any aesthetic restrictions because there are none written into the zoning laws.
Building Inspector Gerald Garner has been working alongside Dollar General to make sure it is following the building code. He said they have been listening to his suggestions, but they do not necessarily have to follow them.
"We don't have a leg to stand on, but hopefully they come through with this stuff," Garner said. "We will do the best we can with them."
Although Garner can only make suggestions to some areas, he told Dollar General they must plant privacy hedges along the back and the sides of the store to shield it from the view of surrounding houses. He also told them to plant low shrubs in the front of the building.
Selectmen agreed that the town's zoning laws need updating soon and urge that it be a topic at the next town meeting.
"I think us as a board and a planning board have not thought far enough ahead, and we should have had something in place to protect us," Selectman Paul Astorino said. "The laws need updating as we pull into the 21st century."
Balawender-Reynolds said she would like to see the property used for something else. The Selectmen agreed with her.
"It's such a beautiful property, and it's a shame to see it get paved," Balawender-Reynolds said.
The vacant building is owned by Peter Krutiak, who moved out several years ago. Krutiak owned another historic structure, the Cheshire Inn, that was knocked down last year by the town. The inn was on the other side of Balawender-Reynolds' business.
Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tenn., has some 10,000 stores, mostly in smaller communities. It has stores in Adams, Williamstown, Lanesborough and Pownal, Vt., and is planning stores in Pittsfield and Sheffield.
The chain hasn't been always been welcomed: it took Sheffield to court over attempts to derail it and ran into vocal opposition in Lanesborough.
Construction of the Dollar General should start by the end of August or early September.
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