Plans by the Dollar General chain to build a discount store near the entrance to the Eldorado community southeast of Santa Fe are running into opposition from some area residents.
Santa Fe County land-use officials say the project meets all codes for a designated commercial area along the east side of U.S. 285 just south of Interstate 25. But petitions bearing hundreds of signatures led the county Planning Commission to schedule a Nov. 21 hearing to consider complaints from residents who don’t want such a store on a highway corridor adjoining what in recent decades has become a semirural bedroom community.
Dollar General, a fast-growing builder of stores that mostly sell snacks, drinks, canned goods, household supplies and personal care products at low prices, often in rural and suburban areas, has run into local resistance before.
But in addition to such typical concerns as the impact that cheap-to-operate dollar stores have on established local businesses, critics of the proposal in the first phase of the 89-acre Cimarron Village Master Plan are raising issues of tone.
“I object to taking away the rural character and turning it into a strip mall,” said Phil Lontz, a longtime Eldorado resident who noted the subdivision was marketed as a community of widely spaced solar homes with sweeping vistas. “There seem to be people who want to turn it into a small version of Santa Fe.”
Lontz, whose wife signed a protest petition posted at a local coffee shop, said he thinks the proposed store would fit better amid the commercial clutter along Cerrillos Road on the south side of Santa Fe.
“This is targeted for a different socioeconomic group,” he said of the discount store. “Is that Eldorado? I don’t know.”
Not everyone is opposed. Julie Navarro, general manager of the Eldorado Community Improvement Association, told The New Mexican last month that the homeowners association had taken no position on the Dollar General store.
“I know some [residents] are OK with it,” she said. “Some are opposed to it. Some really don’t care. Others say Eldorado does not need a Dollar General.”
Edgar Catanach, who said he and his wife fear the development will lower the value of their home near the project site, said Friday he submitted a protest petition bearing 450 signatures and plans to submit another with 300 more names.
Addressed to county officials from “We, the good people of the 285 South Corridor and surrounding areas,” the petition maintains “this Dollar Store is unnecessary, would be an eye sore to our pristine area, and that its purpose would not be to serve the community, but merely to serve as a pass-through establishment, which would only cause more car congestion, not to mention a probable increase in vehicular accidents.”
Catanach said he filed the appeal to force a public hearing on the proposal. If not satisfied with the outcome of the Planning Commission hearing, the petitioners can appeal to the County Commission.
Joseph Karnes of Sommer Karnes & Associates, legal counsel for the Texas general contractor that plans to build the store, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Tennessee-based Dollar General, which opened its 16,000th store in Florida in September, has about 100 stores across New Mexico.