Protesters gather to stop construction of Brevard Dollar General store to save endangered species
May 14th, 2020
BREVARD, N.C. — Protesters gathered in Western North Carolina Wednesday to rally against a proposed Dollar Store that an environmental group says will hinder the progress of bringing an endangered species back from the brink of extinction.
At risk, according to the group, is a nearby population of Appalachian Elktoe mussels, a species listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The Concerned Citizens of Transylvania County held a news conference they called "No Dollar in the Holler in front of the construction site."
The group announced its intent on May 8 to file a citizen lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act over the proposed store at Becky Mountain Road south of Brevard.
Group officials posted the following on the website:
"In 2019, the Transylvania Times called the return of mussel to the French Broad River, previously considered extinct from the river, the county's conservation success story of the decade.
"The return of the endangered mussel to the French Broad River is a positive indicator of improved water quality and reduced pollution in the river, but could once again be threatened should the Dollar General project continue as planned."
The suit is against the store's developer, Transylvania County and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, according to the group's website.
The "60-day notice," filed for the group by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, is the compulsory first step in ESA citizen suit litigation, the group said.
The proposed store, which would be the corporation's seventh location in the county, is currently under construction near Highway 276, on a property adjacent to Hogsed Creek, about 150 yards upstream from the Creek's confluence with the French Broad River.
"I was convinced that the days of needlessly developing in flood prone areas were coming to an end, but then there is this project," said Upstate Director of SCELP Michael Corely. "Not only does this Dollar General and its parking lot have to be elevated out of the floodplain through fill, but that disturbance is happening beside one of the very few locations in the area with a known population of endangered species. It's tough to understand," Corely said.
According to the ESA notice letter, should the project go forward in its present form, construction activities and stormwater discharges at the site will result in unlawful harm to the mussel population.
The primary reasons of such harm, according to the letter, are that the retail location is being constructed entirely within the floodplain of Hogsed Creek and without any permanent system for managing and treating runoff.
The developer had no comment when WYFF reached out for a response, and instead was referred to Dollar General officials.
Dollar General sent the following response to WYFF News 4 Wednesday evening:
"The Broadway Group is currently is constructing a new Dollar General store on Greenville Highway in Brevard, North Carolina. Since the beginning of this project, the Broadway Group has worked cooperatively with city and county officials to secure the necessary approvals to move forward with construction.
"The Broadway Group plans to continue construction on the project based on guidance provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Carolina Field Office that states, in relevant part:
“We do not believe that this project will adversely [affect] the endangered Appalachian elktoe or result in [its] "take" under the Endangered Species Act… The Appalachian elktoe has been expanding [its] range in the French Broad River and continues to increase in numbers, both signs that the habitat is suitable and stable.”
"Dollar General believes that the addition of each new Dollar General store presents positive economic growth for the communities we proudly serve. We demonstrate our commitment as a positive business partner through the creation of local careers and numerous opportunities for employee development and career advancement, as well as through grants provided through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation that positively impact literacy and education initiatives at schools, non-profits and libraries.
"We appreciate the opportunity to serve the Brevard community, and we look forward to opening our new store in Brevard to better serve Transylvania County residents by early summer 2020."