Morrow leaders on Tuesday passed an extension of a moratorium on new beauty supply establishments, urgent care centers, convenience stores and other types of service-provider businesses to try and diversify its retail mix. PHOTO: LEON STAFFORD/AJC

Morrow extends moratorium on permits for some new businesses

The city of Morrow has extended a moratorium on new permits for nail salons, convenience stores, consignment shops and other types of service-provider businesses, while council members continue working on a comprehensive plan to address zoning in this city of about 8,000 people.

The 6-month moratorium targets nine categories of service establishments and will begin anew in October, when an identical measure passed earlier this year expires.

Morrow Mayor Jeff DeTar said the restrictions are necessary because service businesses — including urgent care facilities, tire stores, tax preparers, beauty supply shops and discount retailers — are over-running the south metro community. It passed earlier this week by a 4-1 vote.

“We already have 50 of this type of shop and 30 of that type of shop and 10 more of these,” DeTar said of the service retailers. “We’re going to have a situation where other businesses who want to look at this area will only see one type of business, which will make it harder to attract retailers than it is now.”

Clayton County, home to close to 300,000 residents, has struggled to balance its retail mix as brick-and-mortar shops have been shuttered because of increased online shopping. Clayton has been hit particularly hard, with such retail staples as Target, Kohl’s and Old Navy offering no locations in the community.

But Cynthia Hicks, vice president of leasing and development for U.S. Properties Group, owner of the Shoppes at Morrow Station, said the moratorium is keeping out some of the very businesses the city wants to attract — especially those capable of filling empty big box stores.

The company, which has shopping centers in 10 states across the country, has signed a letter of intent with retailer Goodwill to fill space in the shopping center left vacant almost two years ago after electronics giant H.H. Gregg went bankrupt. The company has been negotiating to bring other retailers to the 485,000- square-foot center, but the moratorium has thrown those plans in doubt, she said.

“My assumption is you would rather see those spaces vacant,” she told the council. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Mariangela Corales, a vice president of legal services and general counsel for Goodwill, said Morrow was missing a good opportunity to land a retailer that would bring 55 jobs and be a catalyst to attract other retailers because the brand has been an anchor in many communities.

“We have a store in the Mall of Georgia, we have a store in Perimeter and Buckhead,” said Corales, who lives in Morrow and frequents Shoppes at Morrow Station. “What they are saying is Morrow is not open for business.”

Councilwoman Renee Knight said the moratorium is necessary so the city can develop a comprehensive plan to address zoning that is attracting so many wig shops and gas stations.

“We want to build our muscle in development rather than continuing to go down the same road and get the same stores,” she said. “We want to place a new vision for our residents.”

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