Box store battle brews

Velva resident fights city’s rejection of Dollar General

Jill Schramm/MDN A Dollar General store is under construction in east Minot Thursday. The box store has been expanding its presence in North Dakota and working with a developer to come into the Minot region.

VELVA – Velva residents are divided on whether a proposed box store will boost or bust their local economy, but the position taken by the city commission is it wants no part of it.

The Velva City Commission recently voted to reject the lone bid on a city land sale after learning the developer planned to lease the property to Dollar General, a retailer with 14,000 stores around the country.

“We all just did our homework and really looked at the impact it would have on the existing businesses,” Commissioner Mary Liz Davis said. “We didn’t want to threaten what we have so we voted it down.”

Davis acknowledged the developer may find another piece of property in Velva and bring in Dollar General anyway.

“It’s not like we are stopping it. We just don’t want to be a part of the process,” she said.

Velva resident Lori Foley argues a Dollar General store would be good for the community. She said she collected signatures from nearly 50 neighbors in support of the land sale to present to the commission, which was not swayed.

“They are more concerned about protecting each other or their friends instead of doing what’s right for the city of Velva, and that’s what bothers me the most,” Foley said. “They weren’t looking at the big picture of how much revenue it brings into Velva. They are giving up the opportunity of what Dollar General will do for our community.”

The city turned down the developer’s offer of $100,000 for about 1.37 acres just off U.S. Highway 52 on the city’s west side. The city had decided to seek bids on the land it owns near a river dike after hearing there might be buyer interest. Only one bid was received.

The commission’s greatest concern was potential impact on its grocery and drug stores, Davis said. However, Dollar General also would bring more employment competition into the community, which already has a worker shortage that affects a number of businesses, she said.

She added local merchants contribute to the community, supporting local activities and serving on boards and committees. There’s concern that Dollar General would not have that same community pride, she said.

Foley counters the city could use the $100,000 from the land sale and the increase in city sales tax from traffic the store would generate by drawing travelers off the highway and giving local residents another shopping option. She said existing businesses might feel an impact initially, until the novelty of the store wears off. In the longer term, a well-run business will survive, she said.

She added the corporation provides grants to its communities and supports employees and their families with educational scholarships.

Foley said she plans to continue to share information with commissioners and urge them to change their votes. However, if that effort fails, she said she is willing to collect signatures to push the matter to the ballot since it appears the developer is willing to wait.

“I see where this would help our community,” Foley said. “I would hate to see us lose out on it.”

Dollar General has been expanding its presence North Dakota, having established 11 stores in the eastern part of the state. Stores are under construction in Burlington and east Minot.

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