The City Council approved the moratorium 3-2 on first reading. Mayor Milissa Holland believes dollar stores contribute to ‘food deserts.’ Councilman Jack Howell says the moratorium scares away other businesses.
For at least until May 13, Palm Coast won’t get any new dollar stores: The City Council approved a first-reading ordinance of a moratorium on the businesses at its meeting on March 3.
The vote for the moratorium was 3-2, with Councilmen Jack Howell and Bob Cuff dissenting. A second-reading vote will be held March 17.
The 120-day moratorium went into effect earlier, when the council approved a resolution for a legislation-in-progress moratorium 5-0 in January. (Palm Coast has four existing Dollar General stores and two Dollar Tree stores. The existing stores are not affected by the moratorium.)
Howell later said he was having second thoughts.
He’s been trying to recruit out-of-state aviation-related businesses to come to Palm Coast, he said, and two companies he’d contacted told him they’d read about the moratorium and were questioning whether the city was business-friendly.
“We have to be very careful on this,” Howell said.
The city’s planning board voted in favor of the moratorium on Feb. 19, but the vote was divided, 4-3.
The moratorium is not to be taken as a prelude to a ban, city staff said. Instead, it’s an opportunity for the city to explore whether additional regulations on the stores, referred to in the ordinance as “small-box discount stores,” would be beneficial for the city.
Mayor Milissa Holland had proposed the moratorium, expressing concerns that dollar stores could crowd out healthier grocery options and contribute to food deserts.
City staff will present findings to the council at a future meeting, Chief Development Officer Jason DeLorenzo said.
Palm Coast resident Toby Tobin said he strongly opposed the moratorium and any kind of ordinance limiting the stores. He noted that the term “food desert” typically refers to low-income urban areas that lack access to fresh food, and that Palm Coast isn’t urban and isn’t lacking for grocery choices.
“Trust me, the arrival of a new dollar store in Matanzas Woods will not deter Publix,” he said.
Palm Coast resident Jack Carall objected to the idea of the city interfering with residents; shopping choices.
“You’re telling us — we’re the shopper — what to buy and who stays in business? No. If I want to go into a general store, that’s my business, not your business,” he said.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to clarify that the 120-day moratorium began in January, and that a second-reading vote on the moratorium ordinance will be held March 17.