Following a six-month moratorium on those stores, the Palm Coast City Council in August 2020 unanimously approved a restriction on “small box discount stores” like Dollar General and Dollar Tree: they were to be disallowed within 500 feet of any residential home, except with a special exception. There were six such stores in the city at the time.
On Tuesday, the Palm Coast Planning Board recommended approval of just an exception for a Dollar General to be built on a 3.5-acre vacant parcel at 4530 U.S. Highway 1, on the east side of the highway, about 0.4 miles north of White View Parkway. The 12,480 square foot store would be among the larger of the discount stores in the city (they range from 9,000 to 12,600 square feet, with the largest at 500 Palm Coast Parkway). It is flanked by commercial and industrial development, with residential property to the east. The store will generate close to 800 vehicle trips per day.
Haymes Snedeker, the Daphne, Ala.-based developer, also developed the Dollar general on Matanzas Woods Parkway, and has developed stores in six states.
City Planner Estelle Lens says the store will be “well buffered from the residential zone property on the east with a stormwater pond, some open space and some wetlands. There’s approximately 200 to 250 feet between the pond, the open space and the wetlands to the boundary line of the residential zone property.” The store will be neighboring an apartment complex approved by the city in 2020. That 91-acre complex will consist of 256 apartments in three-story buildings, with a 500 to 750-foot wetland buffer between the store and that development.
The proposed discount store drew no response from the public ahead of Tuesday’s planning board meeting. Beyond the Planning Board, the proposal will only require administrative review and will not go before the City Council.
The city imposed the new restriction in 2020 as it was concerned that the proliferation of discount stores would “adversely impact the sound economic growth of the City, and the land use trends that are necessary to support that sound economic growth, and have a deleterious impact on neighboring properties by lowering property values and adversely affecting rental rates of nearby commercial properties,” as the new ordinance stated at the time. More specifically, the ordinance was inspired by reports that discount stores were tied to an erosion of grocery stores that provide fresh produce, as opposed to the processed, pre-packaged fare at discount stores.
“Dollar General’s core customer today is a woman with a household income of $40,000 or less,” Slate reported last year. “And that’s always whom Dollar General has targeted: people on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Guided by that strategy, Cal Jr. aggressively expanded the company’s footprint over the next couple of decades. He grew the business to more than 6,000 stores with more than $6 billion a year in sales. Once he’d figured out the kind of places where a dollar store could thrive, he put them everywhere he could. […] The business story is a clear win. But when you talk to people in districts that already have five or six or seven dollar stores, they aren’t quite as thrilled with the notion of even more dollar store expansion.”
Hung Hilton, a member of the planning board–and one of the eight applicants for appointment to a City Council seat–seemed concerned about just such trends.
“Something I remember when they had this moratorium a few years ago was talking about food deserts and creating spaces where people, especially low income or with limited mobility, depend on that pre-packaged and processed foods in these kinds of stores,” Hilton said, “because it’s not convenient to get to a grocery store, something like that. So just wondering, are there any plans for other grocery stores, or markets, things like that, that would be nearby this area?”
That area of U.S. 1 is, in fact, a food desert at the moment–a desert that Dollar General would fill. City planners were not aware of plans for a grocery store for the area any time soon, other than the possibility of one several miles south, at U.S. 1 and Seminole Woods Boulevard. Bunnell does not have a major grocery store, but does have small, family-owned ones.
A representative for the applicant sought to ease concerns: “This is a market store so it’s going to be a 12,480 square foot,” she told the planning board, “and it will have fresh produce and have more fresh items, the selection, which is one of the reasons why we chose to put that size store at this site, as there is no local grocery, so we’ll have that offering to the people.”
The board approved the special exception on a 6-0 vote. It will be the fifth Dollar General in Palm Coast. There are also two Dollar Trees.