Last Wednesday night, approximately 80 people showed up in attendance of the Town of Norwood’s monthly meeting. On the agenda was the consideration of a moratorium on development, designed to temporarily freeze development in the town.
Some Norwood residents were pushing for the moratorium, since town staff reported earlier this summer the Dollar General company was looking to buy a main street property to open a store.
Those supporting the moratorium have said they don’t wish to see a “formula business” established in town. They said the “freeze” could buy time for town officials to work on planning and zoning measures going forward to preserve small-town, small-business charm.
The public comment period at the beginning of the Aug. 14 meeting lasted roughly two hours. Mayor Kieffer Parrino limited comments to three minutes maximum, and trustee Kerry Welch ran a timer.
Before the floor was open, town attorney Herb McHarg defined the moratorium as an ordinance, a 120-day period, that could allow the planning commission time to review their regulations for the health and safety of the public and the town’s businesses.
Those who spoke publicly either expressed support for the moratorium, or disappointment that it was being considered.
Julie Thorneycroft, owner of a main street bakery, said business is “tough, really tough.” She asked the town to approve the moratorium.
“There is a lot of emotion and upset,” she said. “We are all here now, and now is the time for us to take some time and discuss this as a community. Business owners need to be able to have their say.”
Others in support of the moratorium voiced concerns regarding the negative effects on local businesses, and the “mass and scale” of a potential Dollar General, along with the height and lighting of its signage. Some are worried about the parking area, which some say should be ordered to the rear of the store.
Also on the list of public concerns is interfering with the Dark Sky status that Norwood recently achieved.
Those opposing the moratorium said Dave Alexander summed up their viewpoints in that it seemed to be a “knee-jerk” reaction. Alexander asked why planning and zoning didn’t enact regulations years ago if Dollar General was a problem. Alexander also said Norwood used to have car dealerships and other grocery stores years ago. He said Dollar General won’t hurt Norwood.
“A landowner should have the right to sell if he so desires,” Alexander said. “I’ve been here longer than anybody up here so far. I’ve seen this town change, and it’s going to change.”
Others who opposed the moratorium said they felt it was un-American and also detrimental to free enterprise to halt development. They said they supported competition in business.
Last to speak was the landowner of the main street property Dollar General inquired about, Kenny Hellman. Hellman, who now lives in Nucla, was born in Norwood in the house Arleen Boyd lives in on the east side of town. His family goes back three generations in Norwood.
Hellman said the property was purchased by his grandfather in 1926 and was a gas station in the 1950s. It also housed a dry goods store in the 1960s.
Hellman said he worked on the property 10 years to get it ready to sell and that it felt “really discouraging” that more regulations could prevent him from doing so. He said the sale of his property to Dollar General created no threat to public health or safety.
At the end of the meeting, board members commented on the proposed moratorium before voting. Trustee Candy Meehan said she surveyed more than 100 people in Norwood to get their opinions.
According to her, more than 60 percent said “no” to a moratorium on development.
The moratorium did not pass. Trustees Jaime Schultz and Shawn Fallon voted for it; Meehan, Welch and Mayor Parrino voted against it.