‘We don’t need another dollar store’

PONCE DE LEON, Fla. (Holmes County Advertiser) — Residents of Ponce de Leon are giving an Alabama-based developer pushback on plans to construct a dollar store right across the road from the existing Dollar General.

The town of Ponce de Leon seems poised for growth with access to Interstate 10, a rest area, a handful of fueling stations, a motel, an RV park and Ponce de Leon Springs to lure in travelers. Residents say they want growth but not in the form of another dollar store.

“We need a hardware store, more restaurants, a tire store, a doctor’s office,” said former PDL mayor Sheena Hougland in the Dec. 6 Holmes County Commission meeting. “There are many things we need; another dollar store is not one of them.”

The development was brought before commissioners in December by Holmes County Planner John Feeney as he was seeking retroactive approval of the initial lot split of the land as all required permits were not accounted for during the first application.

The lot split has since been approved but conflict remains as the town says it never granted approval to bring in a dollar store and feels blindsided by a lack of transparency by the developer that is currently clearing land to construct a Family Dollar.

According to the Holmes County property appraiser, Perman Engineering purchased a 1.24-acre parcel of land under the name PDL Properties LLC from Daryl Dockery of Dockery Land Holdings LLC in July last year for the sale price of $200,000. The property is located on State Road 81 just north of Interstate 10 and right across the highway from Dollar General and Ponce de Leon RV Park.

“When we go into an area, we look for a need and this is a need for the area,” said Trey Perman, real estate developer with Perman Engineering. “I hate that it’s as controversial as it’s become.”

According to Perman Engineering’s website, the firm provides civil engineering, land surveying, general contractor and developer services on a variety of industrial, governmental and commercial projects. Commercially, they play roles in the development of shopping centers, restaurants, car washes and several chain retail stores – including dollar stores – around Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. Also listed are over 10 Family Dollar stores throughout the U.S.

Dollar stores have proliferated through low-income communities in recent years and have sprouted accordingly in Holmes County. Many welcome these oddly placed general stores as a convenient spot to pick up groceries and other essential household items. For others, adding another discount store to the community is not a real sign of progress.

Hougland said she pulled public records from the town of Ponce de Leon and was unable to find where the developer had conveyed to the town formally that the plan was to construct a dollar store. She added that the town has limited commercial land and that development should be planned efficiently based on what the community needs.

The town council had unanimously voted against the addition of another dollar store and says the developer bypassed Ordinance 99-01 requiring any incoming business to apply for an occupational license tax for the privilege of doing business within the city limit.

“Has it ever occurred to you guys to do something different the community can back you on?” Commissioner Brandon Newsom asked Perman.

Perman said they were never approached by the town or anyone in the community to ask for a different type of business.

Another former mayor, Ronald Farring, recalled how in the past the RV park and liquor store brought their businesses before the town council and described what they were planning to develop while asking if the town would be able to provide water and sewer services to the business.

Perman said in the meeting that they have been transparent and assumed the city gave them the green light after issuing a letter granting they could provide water and sewer service to the business.

The town maintains they were never given a chance to provide that feedback as the developer pressed forward with plans that have the support of the Dockerys as they have had to coordinate FDOT plans and permits to gain entry to the dollar store site and any other future development that might occur on the Dockery land remaining on all sides of the small parcel owned by Perman’s firm.

“A man has to be able to sell his property to whoever he wants if the city wants whatever he wants,” Farring said. “I’m with the city in not wanting another dollar store.”

There will be a workshop held at Ponce de Leon Town Hall on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend and learn more about the project.

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