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City commission approves proposal requiring special use permit for small box discount stores

Small-box discount stores — such as Dollar General — may eventually have to obtain special-use permits to open in Toledo under a proposal passed recently by the Toledo City Plan Commission.

The proposal, applicable only to new stores coming in, not existing businesses, would affect discount stores with a floor area between 5,000 and 15,000 square feet. And, once granted, the special-use permit would be subject to an annual review and could be amended or revoked by the city if certain standards aren’t met.

The proposed change to Toledo’s municipal code was prompted by a study requested several months ago by City Councilman Tyrone Riley — who is currently suspended from council pending the outcome of a federal bribery case — to examine the impacts such businesses, also commonly known as dollar stores, have on the community.

Matt Lascheid, Toledo city planner, presented the study’s findings during a plan commission meeting Thursday.

Such stores typically don’t carry produce or other fresh food, Mr. Lascheid said.

But their presence can make it difficult for nearby grocery stores to stay in business.

“What we found is these type of stores contribute to food deserts,” he said. “… When these stores move in and saturate the market, in contributes to poor health of residents.”

The city planner added that that dollar stores are often the subject of code violations and can end up becoming nuisance properties. Other cities have also adopted stricter regulations, among them requiring special-use permits, to curb their spread.

The Toledo proposal also includes a requirement that a small-box discount store cannot be located with a mile of an existing store of that type.

Steve Brophy, vice president of government affairs for Dollar General Corporation, said during the meeting his company was willing to work with the city on specific issues outlined in the study, but also said the study focused excessively on the stores’ negative attributes.

“What it doesn’t do is speak to the positive things the Dollar General brand specifically brings to communities,” he said.

Mr. Brophy said hundreds of Dollar General stores have added fresh produce, and next year that will continue to increase. He also said that Dollar General stores are not an obstacle to grocery stores.

Tom Gibbons, the plan commission’s director, said the proposal would not single out Dollar General, as it also would constrain competitors such as Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. He also noted the ordinance might have little practical effect because of the number of dollar stores already in Toledo.

Ken Fallows, the commission’s chairman, said concerned citizens beyond Mr. Riley have also weighed in repeatedly about dollar stores’ neighborhood impact.

Mr. Fallows said he would like to see the commission approve it but with recommendations for further consultation.

“It’s a discussion that is needed,” he said. “I can’t question that at all.”

The proposal will be sent to Toledo City Council’s zoning and planning committee for its Dec. 9 meeting.


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on November 8, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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