A divided Palm Coast Planning Board voted 4-3 last week to approved a 120-moratorium on permitting dollar-type discount stores–so-called “small-box stores”–to give the city’s planning department time to analyze whether the stores are hurting other types of businesses, grocery stores in particular, and whether they should be more strictly regulated.
Though supportive, the planning board was by no means particularly enthusiastic about the measure, its vote reflecting the seeming puzzlement shadowing the issue. “I for one do not feel we have an overabundance of the dollar stores, I shop at them,” Glenn Davis, who chairs the planning board, said. “I shop at Publix too.”
At one point the proposal also failed getting a recommendation from the planning board for lack of a second. But when board members said the city council was asking for the measure, they mustered a bare majority for the recommendation. One board member called it a “slippery slope,” and didn’t see where the proposal was coming from, but was willing to concede to the council’s prerogatives. “I think it is a waste of time, and I don’t know where it came from,” he said.
There is no pending application for such stores at the moment, and the city has imposed similar moratoriums in the past–on internet cafes at the beginning of the last decade, for example, and more recently on marijuana dispensaries. The first proved moot once the Legislature essentially regulated the cafes out of business. The second led to the city’s decision to limit dispensaries along its principal commercial arteries. But the rationale for either a moratorium on or regulation of small-box stores has been more fuzzy, since no health risk or gambling stigma attaches to the stores.
“This is a little bit of a tricky situation,” Katie Reischmann, the attorney representing the city at the planning board, said. “This type of moratorium is occurring really throughout the U.S. on a fairly frequent basis because of the just incredible volume of these small-box discount stores, the ones that sell things for a dollar, that type.”
The city, she said, is “trying hard to thread the needle here,” limiting the issue to such stores. Gas stations would not be affected, for example. “The real concern has been that these stores are crowding out the grocery stores,” creating “food deserts,” where fresh produce would not be available. The dollar-type stores, the theory goes, would crowd out such stores–even though Dollar Stores and their ilk don’t carry groceries.
“The trick in this is defining what we’re talking about,” Reischmann said.
The city has three commercial zoning districts. The city will study the compatibility of such stores within the districts, perhaps limiting stores to one or two of the three districts. Possibilities also include certain minimum distances between stores, to reduce perceived proliferation.
The Palm Coast City Council on Jan. 7 requested that its planning staff look into regulating small-box stores. At a special meeting on Jan. 14. The council passed a resolution signaling a “legislation in progress” ahead of a moratorium on new such stores. The planning department now has 120 days to study the issue and produce a recommendation.
What data exists nationally tends to support the city’s concerns, though the city’s retail geography, not lacking in grocery stores, may not fit the national picture. At least not yet: that potential lag is spurring the city to get ahead of what may happen if stores continue to proliferate. And there’s no question that dollar-type stores are proliferating: Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar (owned by Dollar Tree) are among the fastest-growing retailers in the country.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit that advocates for sustainability in development, issued a report damning to dollar-type stores in December 2018, with language Palm Coast’s attorneys have echoed in discussing the moratorium proposal to local officials.
The stores, Fast Company reported 15 months ago in a summary of the institute’s findings, “have made a killing in recent years by expanding into some of the county’s most vulnerable communities: small, rural towns, and urban, predominantly black neighborhoods. When that happens, dollar stores essentially take over the market, making it impossible for independent local retailers, like Foodliner, to thrive. And in doing so, dollar stores essentially ensure that people living in the areas they target will struggle to access healthy food. While affordable, dollar stores rarely offer any food beyond highly processed options, and in areas where it’s already difficult to find produce and fresh options (often called food deserts), they don’t do much to change the status quo.”
The stores are concentrated in the South. But based on figures the institute itself provides in its report, Flagler’s grocery stores have increased, not decreased, between 2005 and 2015.
Skeptics on Palm Coast’s planning board said the stores bring jobs and tax revenue, while the city was placing itself in the role of telling people where they should and should not shop. “It doesn’t make sense to me,” one board member said, noting the number of houses being built and the new residents moving in.
“I don’t think the intent is to try to get people to eat healthier, I think the intent is to provide the option of a grocery store in areas where they are being crowded out,” Reischmann said. But she acknowledged that there is no evidence at the moment that this is happening in the city.
Dodson-Lucas, originally from New York City, said anywhere the stores proliferate cause other upscale stores to hurt “because people will buy $1 dress before they buy a $90 dress, and there are a lot of people that want that $90 dress.” She said the city should provide data showing how many complaints have been generated by dollar-type stores and said: “There are an awful lot of people in Palm Coast that are concerned about these stores popping up all over our neighborhoods.”
A fellow-board member said he’s heard from both sides, especially after the Dollar Store on Matanzas Woods Parkway was built: that was the store that appears to have caused the movement for the city’s moratorium. There were also concerns about market demand: retirees like to shop in dollar stores, a board member said, finding the city’s role in the sort of market analysis that would lead to some form of regulation inappropriate.
Board members Jake Scully, Clinton Smith, Sybil Dodson-Lucas and Charles Lemon approved the recommendation. Davis, Christopher Dolney and Robert DeMaria were opposed. The measure moves to the city council for formal approval over two readings of the ordinance.
matthew demers says
Disrupting the business of “quality” stores? It’s not as though a “Dollar General” or a “Family Dollar” are, in fact, Bodegas. ALL WALKS OF LIFE are represented inside these businesses. Publix is RIDICULOUSLY expensive in comparison to “Aldi’s” & “Walmart” as well as the dollar stores (for most items). The city council would like to ensure that service employees are priced right out of living in the service economy of Palm Coast. More competition to drive down the prices of the big stores is a GOOD THING. Who on the city council is pocketing $$ from Publix?? I can’t wait for an “Aldi’s” to come to the PC parkway side of town.
I agree with your comments. Five super expensive Publix stores and another on the way. Talking about saturation? That’s the meaning of saturation. Let’s call for a moratorium on Publix stores. Good question Matthew, I wonder who is getting their pockets lined. I guess money talks and the other walks. Personally, I prefer Winn-Dixie, but I also happen to like Dollar General stores. Can’t afford Publix
Whatever happened to our “Free Country”? Controlling power hungry people should be banned!
Disgusted over a waste of time says
Well what a surprise… the moment a dollar store goes up on the north end of Palm Coast, the Matanzas area, it’s a problem. I’ve been to that end of Palm Coast and I don’t see what people think makes that section better than any other section of Palm Coast. Maybe you should try shopping in one instead of complaining. Get over yourselves!
I wouldn’t look at Publix…. Walmart is scared to death of dollar type stores. I would be willing to bet Walmart is behind this . Also , Walmart sells cheap stuff also , they just charge a little more than dollar stores
Mary Fusco says
Walmart does sell cheap stuff. However, for their brand names they are pretty good. Last week I bought a bag of shrimp in WM . It was $5.00. When I went to WD the same exact bag, same brand was $7.99. Who is crazy? Not me. Today I bought a bag of dog chews for my dog . It was $7.99 in WM. I went to WD to buy a few things and the same exact bag, brand, etc. was $14.99. My point being is that Publix and WD will put themselves out of business. They don’t need to worry about a dollar store. Sadly, consumers are just not savy.
I’ve shopped at dollar stores dozens of times. I could count on one hand the number of times i’ve seen people with a cart full of food. Most patrons only have a handful of items. I think the competition can’t compete with their convenience, variety and prices so they’re lobbying to regulate them. Why should I have to drive to a crowded Publix, Walmart or Winn Dixie to get a bottle of dish soap,a pack of batteries, a six pack or some snacks etc etc. I don’t even care if it costs a little more,the convenience and saving time is worth it to me.And if people want that $90 dress there’s plenty of options for that. I’ve never seen a dress for sale for $1 at any “dollar” store. I recently visited a friend in a small Tennessee town. Dollar General was the only store in town, other than gas station convenience stores. The town isn’t big enough to support a large grocery store so you have to drive 20 miles to the closest Walmart grocery store. Groceries have low profit margins so you have to do large volume to make a profit. Of course the grocers aren’t going to do that volume in rural areas or poor communities, predominantly black or not. That a food desert?
As someone who has called Palm Coast my home the last 23 years…. I don’t believe a ton of duplicates of the same stores are the answer. Yes, I comprehend that this would decrowd one of our 5 Publix, however I believe the same can be done with another store which Palm Coast / Flagler County lacks…. like a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods…. I also comprehend that this would create jobs, but can’t the same be said for any store you bring to the city? I don’t believe these are valid points. Just excuses of why the city keeps allowing duplicates of the same things all over the city. It makes no sense to me. I don’t believe the demographics of Flagler County support the multiple dollar generals that already exist here…. I don’t believe the citizens of Palm Coast want 10 dollar generals, 10 Publix, 3 Aldis. I think the people want variety but let’s be real? This meetings are useless because the city has its own agenda which is controlled by which chains can offer more money to allow this to happen. The city truly does not value what we want as citizens.
Can anyone even define what a “dollar type store” is exactly? It’s hilarious that this is actually a discussion. On so, so many layers. It’s almost like the city of PC, just isn’t able to insert enough of their politics into what a single new dollar general store has done here. Provide a corner store, (not a “dollar store,) in a location with lots of residents and no nearby place to run to for some milk and eggs, or a frozen dinner. Maybe even a dogs treat or a hot wheels for the kid. These folks in the Matanzas area as an example are getting SOO shafted, between the development in the backyards of their “golf community” (as once advertised,) or the lack of amenities like, a single store? And they do realize the difference between an “Everthing $1 store” and A small grocery, right? One that doesn’t even directly compete with Publix ? Or say, some greedy developer inspired, cheaply built new tiny lot homes and town homes for that matter? It’s like someone is mad they put town center in the wrong place or something. Or better yet, maybe The visionaries just isn’t getting their usual just desserts? Don’t get it at all. Intriguing. Oh, on another note, why has Holland park been uprooted and rebuilt again? Anybody know?
It is a addition to the park something that was in its plans.
Melissa needs to get in touch with the people who are living in Palm Coast.
And Palm Coast wonders why it can’t attract businesses! I am a big supporter of what Matt Morton is doing for Palm Coast but this is a joke.
Mr Morton – you are making both yourself and the city look ridiculous. Please stop and make your priority attracting business vs scaring business away!
“And there’s no question that dollar-type stores are proliferating: Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar (owned by Dollar Tree) are among the fastest-growing retailers in the country.”
Republican trickle-down economics keeps on giving…..40 years of basically flat wages for middle and lower middle class people.
Trump fooled so many of these people….his and the Republicans’ tax cut – remember, we were told it was “designed for the middle class” did nothing that was promised. Wages have barely improved, and even as the gains that Trump boasts about in the lower classes are due mostly to increases that states have passed in the minimum wage – which Trump and the Republicans have criticized at every turn.
Wake up, citizens – the fact that these low-cost stores are the fasted growing should tell you something…
Really Board says
I moved from the North in 2015. I am amazed at how expensive Publix is. We had Wegmans which was suppose to be expensive upscale selection of foods. They far exceed Publix with amazing large selection of organic fruits and vegetables. More health conscious food choices and is much cheaper then Publix. As many of the others are saying, no one is doing full weeks shopping in Dollar tree etc. Who is the board speaking for, themselves???? As we the residents here in Palm Coast, welcome theses stores and would love to have a Trader Joe’s or Wegmans that is fairly priced when are the type of shopper that is looking for Pesticide free and healthy food choices. Publix isn’t it!!! I drive to Winter Park or Jacksonville. We have many Seniors here and others such as myself that don’t want to spend a lot of money on incidentals, which these type of stores sell. Plus they are very convenient. They need to stop this type of discrimination against these types of stores, this is America after all!
Mary Fusco says
Personally, I don’t use Dollar General because it is just an overpriced junk store. However, I do use Dollar Tree for certain items and always spend way too much. LOL. Everytime I have been in Dollar Tree, it has been very busy. What I don’t want to see more of are fast food places or gas stations, with convenience stores attached, because they become hangouts for degenerates. Let’s face it, people are going to shop where they get the most for their money. Publix and Winn Dixie are out of sight with their prices. I.e. I needed bag of shrimp so I bought one at WM. I had to go to WD for a few items and checked the shrimp. It was $3.00 more. Prime example.
Lorianne Lucienne says
Maybe the other stores should actually compete if the half a dozen Publixes we have don’t want to lose out. I thought the much-lauded ‘free market’ was meant to determine such. Maybe we should actually have affordable groceries in these stores rather than blaming the stores that actually offer them. Not everyone can afford to avoid the dollar stores.
Just Me says
I dont get those saying the city does not need this or that and the city should NOT build/let be built this or that?? Its not the function of the city to decide what business wants to invest their $$$$$$ here. Its NOT their job to say what store we should or should not shop at. Let the market and the people make those choices. A business wont move here or open another location here if they dont see a “need” for them and then to make $. If one does open a business and the people dont use it then it will go away.
Steve Vanne says
And how many Publix we got. $ talks…
After reading this, I’m so happy I’m not a citizen of Palm Coast. Trampling on the free market, trying to limit one type of business to protect another, discriminating against stores that sell products for a dollar, etc. all sounds like a lawsuit waiting for a place to happen. If Dollar General, or any of these other big corporations sue the City of Palm Coast, the case will be turned over to the City’s insurance carrier who will appoint attorneys to try and defend this mess. Ultimately it’s not defend-able and they will end up settling and paying a nice sum. I’m surprised the Resichmann’s are going along with this. It’s a terrible idea.
I have been observing our community and heard all taking about the small box moratorium issue. Most I heard do not agree with our city mayor, majority council , manager and attorney’s decision and I can see that these small box stores make a dent in the big names stores that carry fresh products. I think is a matter of offer and demand at this point but my biggest concern is that our city becomes a national news and by doing so, may scare away any potential large corporation to move to our city that could have contributed with more higher paid jobs openings? Some large employers entities thrive on free trade and get discourage by too many regulations. We still need all these jobs in Palm Coast. Maybe we need to rethink this moratorium and even before city maybe will be embroil in a very costly suit defense. No one is exempted to err while trying to do something good!
I dont like Dollar stores. Sorry, its my preference. My very elderly Mother liked them to get word find books, which is fine, it kept her happy. I dont think we need anymore than we have. I do use Publix. its the old saying of you get what you pay for. Yes the prices are high. I also have friendly workers, who actually help me if I need it. They have knowledgeable people who can hold a conversation, in English. I am treated like a valued customer, and someone can always help you with an order out to your car. The stores are always very clean, employees are neat, and fresh foods are fresh. You want that, you pay for it. Simply as that. I use WalMart too. I know I am not going to get any help. I am lucky if an employee would even acknowledge me, never mind help. And the chances I have of someone helping me with a large purchase is pretty much slim to none. I dont like Winn Dixie either, that can be even more over priced than Publix, but I havent gone there in a very long time. So its just what you chose, but I dont think we need a dozen dollar stores anywhere.