End of an era, or shape of things to come?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Trading a closed bank building for a new Dollar General has Belfast residents upset about the change. Turner and Associates Realty, Inc., is the developer of the site.

Judging from the number of phone calls that came into the Tribune office, there were plenty of people unhappy about the demolition of the bank building in Belfast last week.

The former First National Bank location, previously the Bank of Belfast prior to a merger, is being torn down, to be replaced by a Dollar General.

There was genuine outrage and dismay from callers, concerned about the loss of history, the loss of trees on the site, and a deeper feeling of loss for the fabric of the community they call home.

People move here because it doesn’t look like Highway 96 in Franklin, so why are we bringing that here? was the question posed by one resident.

Overall, the concerns seemed to be about development, change, and growth versus a quality of life that was important.

The callers shared a very similar message about the idea of development overall.

“Where do you take a stand?” and “This foolishness has got to come to a head somewhere” were two questions asked.

County Building Codes and Zoning Administrator Don Nelson said that there had been opportunities for input from residents.

The meetings of the County Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals are both listed in the legal notice section of the Tribune.

The developer of the project had actually been very accommodating with requests from both of those bodies, Nelson said.

Since the land was already zoned for commercial activity, Nelson said, the developer could have done anything they wanted as far as construction is concerned.

The only guidelines the county has in place is the recently passed sign ordinance for construction in the county.

That kept the sign for the store at a 10 foot height as opposed to the 26 foot height normally seen, and limited the size of the sign to less than 60 square feet.

The developer voluntarily agreed to requests for the look of the new building.

The building will be all brick instead of a brick front with metal sides and the developer agreed to set the building further back from the road than originally planned.

Nevertheless, the project, and the response to it, still raises larger questions in a county that most predict will see a great deal of growth in the near future.

“We have got to have a plan,” said on resident.