Retail plan faces criticism in Oakdale

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Some members of Oak-dale council are at odds with a developer over a plan to build a Dollar General store, a bank and other stores in the heart of town.

Tom Robinson of Peters owns the 2-acre site of the former Joy Dog Food factory, and he is proposing an 18,500-square-foot retail development with 100 parking spaces at Union and Center avenues, beside the Panhandle Trail.

The borough would have to rezone the industrial portion of the property to accommodate the plan. But council members said at their meeting last Thursday that the development would compete too much with the small borough's independently owned shops.

"The last thing we want to do is kill the business we have already," Councilman Bud Sturgeon said. "That's why we want other options explored."

Mr. Robinson, who has owned the property since 2004, criticized council for opposing development that would generate tax income.

"Oakdale is a very tough community to try to rent and build things," Mr. Robinson said. "People aren't rushing to come here. So for you guys to turn down taxes is a hard thing to believe."

Landscape architect Steven Victor, of Victor-Wetzel Associates in Sewickley, presented plans for a 10,000-square-foot Dollar General, a 5,000-square-foot retail strip mall and a 3,500-square-foot bank with a drive-thru. A parking lot would have more than 100 spaces, he said.

Mr. Robinson has a signed agreement with Dollar General, but no other tenants have been secured, he said.

Mr. Victor envisioned some of the businesses serving recreational traffic on the Panhandle Trail.

He said an agreement is in place to use a portion of the trail property at the northern end of the site in exchange for providing 20 parking spots for trail users.

Plans also include retail use of an existing house, across from the post office, that already is zoned for business, Mr. Victor said.

"It would make sense to have a retail center right here in the heart of town," said attorney Jonathan Kamin, representing Mr. Robinson.

Council President Ron "Huck" Gamble said borough officials turned down a similar proposal five years ago because they preferred a "hometown, neighborhood feel" rather than a "big-box store."

Dollar General Corp., based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., is "the nation's largest small-box discount retailer," with stores in 40 states, according to the company's website.

The cost of items varies, unlike dollar stores where everything costs $1.

Mr. Gamble said better ideas for the site include a medical center, boutique shops, senior housing or industry. He would like the borough to purchase and develop the land, but Mr. Robinson won't sell it for a "reasonable price," he said.

Oakdale is home to about 40 businesses, including a downtown commercial district and a shopping plaza on Seminary Avenue. There are two convenience stores and a bank.

"A big point is [in] a community of 1,500 people, we already have two business sections," Mr. Gamble said. "How do you justify a third business section?"

Mr. Victor requested that council eliminate the industrial zoning and designate the entire site for business -- a change needed to allow the stores and the bank.

Vince Tucceri, borough solicitor, said council members have "absolute discretion" whether to rezone the property for commercial development, and they have no deadline for voting on the rezoning application.

Mr. Gamble was prepared to immediately reject the rezoning request, but Councilmen Tom Potts and Mark Maximovich said they wanted to discuss the matter before voting. Council agreed to table the issue until its March 7 meeting.

Also next month, Mr. Robinson plans to propose developing land he owns on Seminary Avenue. In 2004, his J&T Oakdale Properties LLC bought the property for $276,000, according to Allegheny County real estate records.

The same year, Mr. Robinson's RAT LLC bought 2 acres, including the dog food mill, from Best Feeds & Farm Supplies Inc. for $70,000.

The factory was demolished in 2006.

In 2011, Mr. Robinson's company paid $80,000 for a quarter-acre property and house, 112 Union Ave., on a corner of the former factory site.

neigh_west

Andrea Iglar, freelance: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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