DeKalb County extends dollar store moratorium again

DeKalb County officials have again extended their temporary ban on the construction of new dollar stores. But a study of the retailers’ effects on local communities could be completed soon, paving the way for county commissioners to consider more permanent action.

The commission voted unanimously Tuesday to continue the moratorium on dollar stores and other discount small box retailers, which was enacted in late 2019 and has been extended four times since. The latest extension puts the expiration date at April 30.

The intent of the moratorium — an effort spearheaded by Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson — is to put a pause on new projects while researchers from Georgia State University conduct an in-depth study into how an abundance of dollar stores in unincorporated DeKalb affects things like crime, property values and the economy.

There are about 70 dollar stores throughout DeKalb, and they are often the most accessible options for residents seeking groceries and other household necessities. But critics say the stores also disproportionately impact Black neighborhoods, can be magnets for crime, and can exacerbate food insecurity by discouraging larger grocery stores from opening nearby.

County attorney Viviane Ernstes said Tuesday that the Georgia State study has been delayed by the pandemic but a draft could be available for commissioners to provide input by mid-February.

Once a final report is completed, commissioners could consider more permanent regulations on small box discount stores — or incentives aimed at luring more full-fledged grocery stores into areas in need, officials said.