O'Fallon residents who opposed a Dollar General moving into their neighborhood are fuming over drainage, noise and trash issues now that the store is open — all problems they predicted would happen.
However, Patrice Boehler of the property management company Glenwood Equities asked residents to have some patience. She said some of their concerns are being addressed.
Dollar General, which opened last week at 648 West U.S. 50, leases the building from the Chesterfield, Mo., property management firm. The store, which moved from Southview Plaza to its new location at the at the northwest corner of Lawn Avenue and U.S. 50, is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
Meanwhile, the city has addressed trash and drainage issues, said Community Development Manager Ted Shekell.
Neighbors say, "We told you so."
Today, Valerie Piekutowski is livid. She and her husband Mark own a 2.5-acre residence next to the property.
“The fence was not installed to the height that was agreed upon, and not installed in a timely manner. No trees behind fence, as agreed upon,” she said. “Everything has happened exactly as we predicted. Traffic on South Lawn has increased heavily due to cars cutting through. Bright lights shine through our bedroom and living area. We will never be able to open windows when weather permits, since shades must be pulled down.
“We had large amounts of construction trash to clean up, now we have Dollar General bags. We have had four cases of trespassing by workers.”
They have written numerous letters of complaint.
“Drainage was not taken care of, as promised. Our backyard was flooded a couple of weeks ago. (The) city did not inspect properly,” Valerie Piekutowski said.
Roger Van Etten, who lives at 123 S. Lawn Ave., is as upset as the Piekutowskis.
“It was mentioned at these meetings that Mr. Terry Johnson (the developer) had to do certain things and couldn't add to our flooding problems. Well, that didn't work. It got worse, plus the construction crews worked late into the nights with their loud equipment way past the 9 p.m. cutoff.
"We have trash and other debris all over our yards, and now that they are open, lots of DG bags and other trash blown or thrown out on our road. I’ve been picking it up, as I don't want it in my yard.”
Dollar General has more than 13,600 stores in 44 states of basically the same design, offering food, housewares, cleaning supplies, basic apparel, health and beauty products and seasonal items.
But Piekutowski said she's not happy with how the development looks, either.
“It’s an eyesore in both front and back, and was not the proper place for a junk store. Look at the front of it – it looks like a flea market. Nothing says, ‘Destination O’Fallon,’ like a Dollar General. They must be so proud,” she said.
City, property manager say they are trying to resolve problems
Boehler said two of Glenwood’s employees helped with trash while at the site.
“Two of our people were there and picked up trash, which wasn’t their responsibility,” she said. “It’s my understanding that the city paid Dollar General a visit about the trash.”
“We did,” Shekell said. “We did get on them about the trash, said it was unacceptable. Boxes were blowing across the highway. Clothes racks were outside. Outdoor sales have been moved inside the building, and trash has been picked up.”
Shekell said the city told the store they must be a good neighbor.
“I know they want to be. We’re glad they’re here and want them to be successful. We’re confident they will be a good neighbor,” he said.
As for the fence, Boehler said the city was taking care of it.
“I wasn’t at the meetings. All I know is that we are going to work with the city on what they approved,” she said.
Boehler said because of weather delays, the project took longer, and there were some lines that had to be moved.
“These things take a little time. They can’t happen in a week,” she said. “I understand people are upset. Last week, there was frost on the ground. Now, it’s rain. If it’s slimy and muddy, they can’t excavate. Some of the lines had to be moved. The drainage will be taken care of.”
The city improvements were finished Monday.
"Their might be some final grading up to the north,” Shekell said.
Dollar General worked on the last of its landscaping and fencing Tuesday, Shekell said.
But other inconveniences have also been incurred, Piekutowski said. Because of incorrect survey information, AT&T caused major property damage last week, she said.
“We did not know they would be out there. That was an unfortunate mistake,” Shekell said. “The city engineer talked with AT&T about correcting it.”
Piekutowski said they had to hire legal counsel over movement of a water line.
“They tried to charge us to do it,” she said. “We still think some city officials should have lost their job over this project. There have been numerous ethical violations.”
Shekell urged residents to contact city officials.
“If they have any issues, talk to the city,” he said.
Project was contentious from the start
The new 10,640-foot space development is part of a 6.49-acre project that includes a 12,150-square-foot retail center and 10 two-family duplexes or villas to be built in two later phases. The residential development would front an extension of Hillcrest Drive in the Countryside Glenn subdivision.
It was developed by Terry Johnson of Triple Net Management, but it was a project of the Westmore Realty Group in Chesterfield, Mo. Johnson is a commercial real estate broker/developer with 31 years of experience in the O’Fallon, Shiloh and Fairview Heights area. He developed the commercial lot across the street.
Last February, the O’Fallon City Council approved re-zoning amendment to the Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map, which changed the property from single-family to multi-family dwellings and retail.
From December 2016 through February 2017, when the plan was under consideration, Piekutowski was one of the outspoken residents voiced their opposition to the specific type of retail business, citing trash, noise, crime and drainage concerns.
She and her husband were OK with keeping the zoning and Land Use Map as it was — zoned the property for office buildings. Doctors’ offices or low-level retail, like a tailor shop, were agreeable uses to residents, who wanted the city to find another location for the Dollar General.
After residents spoke up at committee and council meetings, Johnson agreed to an alternate street design with a cul-de-sac.
The Public Works department was to have been working on drainage relief plans in the Countryside Glen neighborhood.
Though the development was hotly contested, it was ultimately greenlighted by the council.
The plan had been previously shot down Jan. 17, 2017, in a 5-7 council vote, but was resurrected Feb. 6 at then-Mayor Gary Graham’s request. The project was placed back on the agenda and went through city procedures.
On Feb. 6, 2017, four aldermen had been opposed – aldermen Kevin Hagerty, Robert Kueker, Matt Smallheer and Herb Roach, but Roach, now the mayor, later changed his mind after the public works drainage report. Alderman Ned Drolet was out of town during the votes; he represented Ward 6, where the property is located. The other Ward 6 alderman, Ray Holden, supported it. It passed 10-3 on Feb. 20, 2017.
“The then-council and different committees didn't care what the surrounding residents wanted as long as they got Dollar General out of Southview Plaza,” Van Etten said.
The project had been recommended by the Planning Commission, Community Development Committee and the city’s Community Development staff.
What of future development?
As for the status of the future projects, Shekell said there have not been proposals yet for the corner lot.
“We know developer Terry Johnson is marketing the lot,” he said. “As for the duplexes, nothing yet.”
Future redevelopment for Southview is being worked on, Shekell said.
“Southview is close to being emptied by the owner, now that the old DG location there is closed. We are working with the Southview property owner on possible future redevelopment scenarios. We hope to have something in the not too distant future that we can discuss publicly,” he said.