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Carrabelle divides over dollar store fight

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It looks like Carrabelle will be getting a dollar store in the heart of a downtown some residents want to have preserved as historic.

And they’re not giving up the fight

After a lengthy, heated discussion at the March 5 meeting, city commissioners voted unanimously to grant approval to what City Attorney Daniel Hartman termed “a preliminary site plan review.”

The proposed plans are to construct a 10,500 square foot Family Dollar by Twin Rivers Capital, a real estate developer based in Charleston, South Carolina.

A group of opponents argued the city had not completed necessary steps in reviewing the developer’s plans, and should not move ahead with approval.

“The city must analyze if this complies with the land development code,” said Angie Printiss, a Carrabelle resident who, along with husband David, spoke out when the first set of plans were presented. “This is about doing what is right and sticking with it.”

After she presented petitions opposing the Family Dollar, which she said had 248 signatures, Commissioner Frank Mathes was quick to ask if they lived outside the city. Printiss said 91 of the signatures were of Carrabelle residents.

“When you get 51 percent, I’ll listen to you,” Mathes replied. 

City Engineer Russell Large said after opposition was lodged about truck access to Tallahassee Street, the engineers secured permission from the Florida Department of Transportation to allow access to U.S. 98, and close off an area next to the post office.

Several speakers spoke out in favor of the project, including former Apalachicola City Clerk Lee Mathes, a 30-year Carrabelle resident.

“I am really excited to see something that’s actually going to be used, instead of a vacant lot grown up with weeds,” she said.

The meeting heated up with remarks by Michael Pace, president of the newly created Carrabelle Historical Preservation, Inc, whose board also includes Patricia Tabuchi and Bo May, owner of Rio Carrabelle, which is adjacent to the site.

“The public confidence has been severed in this process. Trust in the local government is critical for it to operate,” said Pace.

The property owner, Cliff Butler waited to speak until others had commented, arguing that while they had the right of free speech, he had property rights.

“This has been commercial for 50 some years,” he said. “This is the first project that has come along that would use that site.”

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