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Jan 24, 2022

Cleveland City Council has approved limitations on where new discount stores can be built, a years-in-the-making effort spurred by complaints from some residents and council members about the stores’ rapid proliferation in impoverished areas and the drawbacks they say come with them.

Council unanimously approved restrictions to ban such new stores – commonly known through companies such as Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General and Five Below – from being built within two miles of an existing discount store.

The legislation also imposes requirements upon developers who want to build new ones. They must submit shelving and floor plans that outline what foods and items will be sold and their price. It also lays out steps in terms of cleanliness outside of the stores.

Overall, the goal is to prevent the stores from saturating the market more than they already have, along with preventing blight, and hurting full-service grocery stores.

Of the approximately 107 such stores in Cuyahoga County, some 70 are in Cleveland.  

Pushed by now-Council President Blaine A. Griffin before he assumed the body’s top position, its passage has been a long time coming. Its introduction came after council imposed a six-month moratorium on new dollar stores being built while city officials studied the issue. The moratorium expired Nov. 1, 2020.

Officials and advocates have raised concerns about the stores affecting residents’ health by contributing to the creation of “food deserts” that leave residents with few options to buy fresh food. That is especially true if they crowd out smaller mom-and-pop shops, as well as full-service grocers, that cannot compete with the stores’ low prices.

They also argue that the stores often attract crime and are an eyesore because of a lack of maintenance.

“I know that this was a long process,” Griffin said. “... It was just a matter of how do we do it and how does it get done in a way that it accomplishes what we’d like to see.”

A summary provided to council specifically cited the owner of a building with a Family Dollar near Buckeye Road and East 130th Street – in Griffin’s ward – as not keeping the site clean and not following plans approved by the city. And a half-mile from that Family Dollar is a Dollar Tree, on East 116th Street.

Most of the small box operations are in poor neighborhoods and often lack general cleaning and maintenance, inside and out. They can become eyesores and places for loitering and litter. 

Other cities have passed restrictions on discount stores, including New Orleans, Birmingham, AL,  Kansas City and Tulsa and Fort Worth, Texas. In the Greater Cleveland area, Akron also passed some restrictions, as did Broadview Heights.  Ord. No. 816-2020.