Updated: 11:28 a.m., Thursday, June 18, 2020
Cleveland is temporarily freezing the spread of dollar stores in city neighborhoods.
City council on Wednesday afternoon approved a moratorium on new zoning permits or occupancy licenses for small-box retail. The pause will last until Nov. 1, while the city drafts new regulations for such businesses.
Council members and city officials say poorly maintained dollar stores proliferate in Cleveland neighborhoods, hurting smaller businesses and bigger grocers. Out of 106 small-box discount stores in Cuyahoga County, 70 are in the City of Cleveland, according to city planner Shannan Leonard.
Councilman Blaine Griffin, who sponsored the measure, said the city needs more tools for retail regulation.
“And that’s the reason why we want to pass this moratorium, in order for us to put the right tools in place to hold these businesses accountable,” he said at a Tuesday committee meeting.
The pause gives the city time to draw up new rules for dollar stores, which Planning Director Freddy Collier said could focus on requiring more distance between stores.
Still, Griffin and Collier said they didn’t intend to paint dollar stores as universally negative. Some dollar stores do a good job elsewhere in the country, selling groceries and investing in the neighborhood, Collier said.
“This is not a witch hunt with respect to dollar stores,” he said. “But it is a concern that has been raised by the community with numerous complaints to council and others.”
At least one store chain actively opposed the moratorium. John Monroe, an attorney at Mansour Gavin, spoke on behalf of Dollar General at a planning commission meeting June 5.
“We are not sure that the cited issues are necessarily valid, but we suggest that this solution is overly broad and unnecessary,” Monroe said earlier this month. “It is literally throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
In a written statement Thursday, Dollar General said the moratorium limits free enterprise and consumer choices. The company employs more than 230 people in Cleveland, the statement said.
“We also respect and share the Council’s desire to serve the Cleveland community, but we believe the targeted efforts at restricting our ability to open future stores and serve the city with convenient, affordable retail option are not in the best interest of customers,” the statement reads in part.
Griffin introduced the moratorium legislation in April 2019. Council passed it Wednesday with several amendments, striking any reference to specific chains.