DeKalb’s ban on new dollar stores extended for 11th time

More permanent regulations could be adopted in coming months

DeKalb County’s ban on the construction of new dollar stores and other “small box discount retailers” could celebrate its third birthday later this year.

The moratorium was extended by county commissioners yet again on Tuesday, marking the 11th extension since the original 45-day ban was approved in Dec. 2019. It’s now poised to be in place through February, though officials hope more permanent zoning regulations to address the proliferation of such stores can be enacted before then.

“There have been a number of comments from the industry that need to be shared with [commissioners] in meetings with the law and planning departments over the next couple of weeks, month or two,” county attorney Viviane Ernstes said during Tuesday’s commission meeting.

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Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, whose super district covers the eastern half of the county, championed the moratorium. There are about 70 dollar stores through DeKalb and critics like Cochran-Johnson worry that their prevalence can create public safety issues, dampen property values and, perhaps most importantly, discourage larger grocery stores with fresher, healthier options from opening nearby.

Cochran-Johnson’s original resolution was aimed at halting the construction of any new “small box discount retailers” until a new study from Georgia State University researchers was completed and made available to help guide more permanent actions.

The pandemic greatly delayed the production of that report, which ultimately found that dollar stores were comparable to convenience stores. Both “may have a greater impact on the health, safety, and welfare of the community than other types of businesses,” the study said.

“These findings suggest that it would be reasonable to subject [small box discount retailers] and convenience stores to similar zoning ordinances as a means of reducing negative social outcomes in the adjacent areas,” the study says.

Cochran-Johnson has also led the charge on legislation that would mandate surveillance cameras at convenience stores and any other businesses — including, potentially, dollar stores — that meet a certain threshold for crime-related incidents.

Commissioners are waiting for the county administration to develop a plan for the implementation and ongoing monitoring necessitated by such an ordinance, but a vote could be held soon.