SIDNEY – Salem Township residents are collecting petitions to oppose a proposed Dollar General that would be built near Port Jefferson, across the street from Glen Cemetery.
Residents said they’re concerned about increased traffic along an already busy stretch of state Route 47, a business encroaching on long-established homes and a business disturbing people as they mourn the loss of loved ones.
“We have nothing against the Dollar General if they just put it somewhere where it made sense,” Floyd Yinger said.
The Salem Township trustees have scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Salem Township Building, 17500 State Route 47, Port Jefferson, about an application to rezone 17617 State Route 47 from residential to business. That is the proposed location of the store.
Concerned residents plan to present petitions against the rezoning during that public meeting and are urging other Salem Township residents who oppose the rezoning to join them at the hearing.
“We’re not saying this area doesn’t need a Dollar General,” Rob Sibert said. “We’re just saying it doesn’t belong right here.”
Ten days prior to the public hearing, Bill Warner said approximately 100 Salem Township residents had signed petitions opposing the rezoning. Organizers are continuing to collect signatures from township residents and are hopeful their campaign will be successful.
“We are hopefully confident,” Sibert said. “We are going to do everything that we can possibly do to make this so it does not pass because we don’t think it’s right.”
One of the main concerns residents have expressed about the proposed location is it’s directly across from Glen Cemetery.
“Most of the people, a lot of the older people, we talked to to get our petitions, they don’t like the cemetery across from Dollar General,” Floyd Yinger said.
While businesses are located close to cemeteries in other communities, including a Dollar General next to Fort Loramie’s St. Michael Cemetery, the Salem Township residents said they think it would be disrespectful to have a store located so close to Glen Cemetery. The Fort Loramie Dollar General at least is close to other businesses, they said.
“(It) would be very disrespectful, in my opinion, to put a Dollar General right there across the road from a graveyard,” Jesse Morris said.
The residents also think it’s inappropriate to put a business in the middle of a residential area.
The proposed location would be between the house of Floyd and MaryLou Yinger, who have cherished their country living for approximately 60 years, and the house of Jesse and Jessica Morris, who moved out of Port Jefferson about three years ago to live in a more secluded area.
“You shouldn’t buy a house out in the country to get away from town and then have a Dollar General built right next to you,” Sibert said.
The residents also worry the store would increase traffic, which already is heavy along the state route.
“At least once a week we hear squealing of brakes because somebody has to brake because somebody is turning into the cemetery,” MaryLou Yinger said.
Another concern residents expressed was the potential danger of people walking along state Route 47 to the store. They also said township residents have been denied requests to hook into a sewer line that runs from Sidney to Port Jefferson, but the proposed store would be given permission.
“I don’t understand how in the last 20 years no one’s been allowed until now,” Sibert said.
A similar effort to build a Dollar General at the same proposed Salem Township location failed about three years ago.
In that instance, Salem Township Zoning Officer Robert Allen said, the Zoning Board of Appeals denied a request to reduce the required lot size from 2 acres to 1.5 acres. After that request was denied, a request to rezone the property from residential to business was withdrawn before the Zoning Board met.
The residents leading the petition drive said they would welcome a Dollar General or similar business if it were in a different location. They would prefer to see it in Port Jefferson, which would put it closer to other established businesses, away from the cemetery and within walking distance for residents.
“I guess our whole country is based on free enterprise, and it’s done so much,” Warner said. “An important part of that free enterprise is you want to prosper, but you want to maintain your assets. And if you look at our assets within Salem Township, we have very few of them. This (cemetery) is a huge asset.”
The petition organizers want any Salem Township residents who are concerned about the proposed rezoning to join them at Tuesday’s hearing.
“If you’re against this, we want you at that meeting, and we want you to speak up,” Sibert said. “Or if you don’t want to speak up, at least show your presence. Tell me your concerns; I’ll speak up.”
Salem Township trustees did not respond to requests for comments.