Poultney voters defeated an article 549-302 on Tuesday, July 9, to loosen zoning bylaws and let a Dollar General come to town.
The article would have let property owners bypass the Development Review Board by permitting mixed commercial and light industrial uses in the village.
“It would have significantly reduced the oversight,” Poultney Planning Commision chair Jaime Lee said of new construction.
The article was brought forth by property owner Leonard Knappmiller of Poultney Properties, LLC.
Multiple attempts to reach Knappmiller’s attorney David Cooper in Rutland weren’t successful.
The Dollar General, proposed for the former Vemas Corporation building on Beaman Street (owned by Poultney Properties), has been a point of contention in town for the last few years.
The Development Review Board ruled against Dollar General’s plan to convert the Vemas facility into a store in 2017, finding the store would have been nonconforming with current zoning regulations.
Poultney Properties appealed the DRB’s decision in 2017 to the state’s Environmental Court. The appeal is now still awaiting a trial date.
Several residents have spoken against the store coming to town and formed a group called Concerned Citizens of Poultney, led by resident CB Hall. Poultney resident Neil Vreeland has filed a lawsuit against Poultney Properties after saying the company harassed him by shining a bright light into his house.
“This was a referendum on Dollar General in Poultney,” Vreeland said of the vote outcome. “I think the overwhelming response from the citizens of Poultney was that we don’t want a Dollar General in town.”
After Knappmiller filed the article to loosen zoning regulations earlier this year, a group of Poultney residents countered that and filed their own petition to strengthen zoning in the village.
The second article, brought forth by the group of residents, failed in a 414-414 tie vote on July 9. The article would have forbid storefronts from exceeding 5,000 square feet in the village, which is much smaller than the proposed Dollar General store of 10,000 square feet.
Lee, the chair of the Planning Commission, said she was relieved both articles failed.
“The big fear from the Planning Commission’s perspective was if both would have passed, we would have been stuck with contradictory zoning,” she said.
Lee said the board reached out to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for advice prior to the vote.
“Nobody has ever seen this before,” Lee said.
Both of the articles would have only impacted retail or commercial zoning in the village industrial district, which includes about 10 properties, Lee said.
Poultney Town Manager Paul Donaldson said he hasn’t heard about next steps from Poultney Properties or the residents.