AUGUSTA — Members of the Augusta Planning Board on Tuesday asked a developer who wants to build a 9,100-square-foot Dollar General retail store on Eastern Avenue to modify his plan so it fits in better with the neighborhood.

Developer Bob Gage, of Tennessee-based GBT Realty, said he has numerous ways to improve the appearance of the building’s exterior and is confident he can come back with a new design that will satisfy the board. However, he said one board member’s request for a pitched roof in place of the planned flat roof would break the budget and scuttle the project.

Some residents, meanwhile, expressed concern about the additional traffic the store could bring and agreed the building as proposed wouldn’t fit in, while others said the retail store would be a welcome addition for residents of nearby neighborhoods who now have to drive across town to buy the types of things it would carry.

Board members Tuesday tabled action on the proposal for two weeks. Gage said he’ll come back with a new design and possibly two or three options to choose from.

Board members, including A. Delaine Nye, said the proposed building looks too much like a warehouse and not enough like the other buildings in the neighborhood. The site is now a vacant, forested 2.37-acre lot at 296 Eastern Ave. next to Saltbox Primitives and roughly across the street from Bill’s Barber Shop in the area of Farrington Elementary School.

“If you could come back with a design so that this doesn’t look like just another flat-roofed square box, I would be happy,” Nye said. “With this design, I’m not happy. Bring back something that doesn’t look like a warehouse, a warehouse with a necklace and a skirt on it. Something that looks like a decent building.”


Gage said he would do so, but he also said Nye’s earlier request for a pitched roof on the building would cost too much, adding about $140,000 to the project cost of about $750,000.

“That will completely kill this deal,” he said. “That said, we do a lot of exterior material changes, we do faux awnings, we do different stuff and keep within the budget to where we still can build a store. There are lots of things we can do to that building that I think will make you happy.”

The project was before the Planning Board for a major development review. The site is in the Planned Development zoning district, where a retail store is a conditional use.

As a conditional use, the project faces a higher level of review than if a retail store were a permitted use in that zone.

Matt Nazar, the city’s development director, said that includes whether the building is compatible with the neighborhood, which is made up of a mix of older commercial buildings and residential buildings.

A written staff review of the project notes the building would have a flat roof. Few other buildings in that area have flat roofs, and none share the proposed modern commercial box construction design.


Neighborhood resident Jim Spellman said traffic is already “murder” for drivers trying to get onto Eastern Avenue, which is also Route 17, from Windsor Avenue.

The store would generate 65 vehicle trips during the peak evening commute, according to a traffic study provided as part of application materials filed with the city. The additional traffic the store would be expected to draw would require modifications to Eastern Avenue, including a left-turn lane, according to city officials.

Spellman also said the store wouldn’t fit in and should be located in one of the many existing buildings already in the city and vacant.

Gage said while Dollar General sometimes buys existing structures and renovates them into their own stores, his company was selected by the chain to build a store because Dollar General wanted a new building in Augusta.

Resident Lisa Hodgkins said it is true that no other buildings or stores in the immediate area are like that, which she said is the whole point of building the store at that location, because it would provide something not available there now.

“Anybody in those little neighborhoods in that area have to travel across the bridge or downtown to some other area” to shop, she said. “It’s not convenient for them. They don’t have a place where they can pick up a greeting card or little items like that. I think having something like that on the east side would be very beneficial to residents of the little neighborhoods in the area.”


Dollar General, according to the corporation’s website, has more than 12,000 stores in 43 states and is “America’s largest small-box discount retailer by sales.” It sells clothes, food, health and beauty-related products, pet supplies and other items.

It already has stores in Litchfield, Lewiston, Auburn, Turner and Oakland in central Maine.

The board is scheduled to take the proposal up again at its Feb. 23 meeting.

Board member Peter Pare, a resident of the nearby Mayfair neighborhood, said he wouldn’t vote for the proposal as initially offered but would consider an altered design with a new design on the front.

Board member Alison Nichols suggested adding gables to the building could help, as could eliminating the metal along the top of the building as proposed and using more brick as was used on a Dollar General store in Lisbon.

“Those are the kind of things that could make it fit in better,” Nichols said. “I think the use is a very good use for a neighborhood that doesn’t have that sort of thing within walking distance.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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