DeKalb County again extends temporary ban on dollar stores

A customer leaves the Family Dollar at the intersection of Covington Highway and DeKalb Medical Parkway. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Caption
A customer leaves the Family Dollar at the intersection of Covington Highway and DeKalb Medical Parkway. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

DeKalb County on Tuesday extended its temporary ban on new dollar stores as it continues to study the impact they have on communities.

The county first put a moratorium on “small-box discount stores” last December, following concerns that unincorporated DeKalb was already home to too many stores like Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar. Residents and officials said they wanted more large, traditional grocery stores in their neighborhoods.

The county commission extended the ban in January so researchers from Georgia State University could do an in-depth study into how dollar stores affect DeKalb residents.

During a meeting Tuesday morning, the commission voted to extend the moratorium for another three months, until Oct. 29.

ExploreBan the dollar store? Local communities halt new discount shops

County planning director Andrew Baker said the researchers were in the final stages of their work.

“We have actually made great progress on that data,” Baker said.

Viviane Ernstes, the county attorney, said the GSU researchers will present the commissioners with a final report with their findings. Then, the officials could draft legislation to permanently regulate dollar stores.

Ernstes said the county could take a “two-pronged approach” to regulate small-box stores and incentivize “appropriate development in areas that need that kind of development.”

GSU researcher Dean Dabney is leading the study and plans to look into the impact of dollar stores on crime, property values and the local economy.

A customer leaves the Dollar Tree at the intersection of Covington Highway and DeKalb Medical Parkway, where three different brand dollar stores are located in a half-mile radius. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Caption
A customer leaves the Dollar Tree at the intersection of Covington Highway and DeKalb Medical Parkway, where three different brand dollar stores are located in a half-mile radius. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

The ban defines the businesses as retail stores of less than 16,000 square feet that sell convenience shopping goods at a price lower than traditional establishments. Critics say the stores disproportionately impact Black neighborhoods and contribute to food insecurity by discouraging larger grocery stores from opening nearby.

Across DeKalb, there are about 70 dollar stores selling discount goods, packaged foods and limited cold or frozen groceries.

Stonecrest, one of DeKalb’s largest cities, has about 54,000 residents served by nearly a dozen dollar stores. In November, the city passed a total ban on future small box discount stores.

When the county first extended its moratorium, Dollar General said in a statement that it was “engaged in constructive conversations” with DeKalb commissioners.

“Dollar General has been proud to serve area residents and help them save more on everyday products,” the statement said. “We look forward to continuing to do so and hope to expand our investment in the county again soon.”

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