The city of Mesquite, Texas, an eastern suburb of Dallas with modest houses and a largely Hispanic and African American population, saw the number of dollar and discount variety stores quadruple within its boundaries over a decade.
Determined to stop this incursion, in July 2018 the city council passed a citywide policy that requires proposed dollar stores to obtain a conditional use permit to open and prohibits them from locating within 5,000 feet of one another.
The policy’s purpose is to “promote the availability of fresh and quality foods, especially in underserved neighborhoods” and address the fact that “residents typically have more access to convenience stores and fast food than to nutritious food.”
To obtain a conditional use permit, a proposed dollar store must meet several criteria, including that “a minimum of 10 percent of the floor area of the variety store must be dedicated to fresh produce, meat, and dairy products.” The city also evaluates how the proposed store would affect existing grocery stores and the overall availability of fresh food.
The policy defines a discount variety store as “a retail store that sells a wide variety of relatively small and inexpensive items.”
“We want to make sure that we provide as many opportunities for grocery stores to develop,” Mesquite City Manager Cliff Keheley told a local news outlet following the ordinance’s passage.
Mesquite’s ordinance was implemented through a zoning text amendment and took effect on July 16, 2018. For the language used in Mesquite’s policy, read the adopted ordinance (City of Mesquite, Planning and Development) and relevant excerpts from the text, below.
Ordinance Amendment No. 4583 — Zoning Text Amendment No. 2018-06
This document provides excerpts from the ordinance passed and approved by the City of Mesquite, Texas, in July 2018.
AN ORDINANCE of the City of Mesquite, Texas, amending the Mesquite Zoning Ordinance adopted on September 4, 1973, and recodified on November 21, 1988, by making certain deletions and additions in sections found under chapters 3-200, 3-500 and 6-100 thereby providing new and revised regulations for variety stores; providing a repealer clause; providing a severability clause; and declaring an effective date thereof.
WHEREAS, according to a 2012 community health assessment by the Mesquite Department of Community Development, Mesquite residents face increasing threats to sufficient access to fresh and affordable produce, and residents typically have more access to convenience stores and fast food than to nutritious food; and
WHEREAS, according to that assessment, of the six leading causes of death in the United States — heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers — are diet-related chronic diseases, and rates of overweight and obesity, which are risk factors for these diseases, continue to increase, particularly in minority and low-income populations; and
WHEREAS, in 2008, Mesquite had four variety stores and that number has quadrupled since that time; and
WHEREAS, variety stores typically offer mostly inexpensive, energy-dense, low-nutritive foods and beverages rather than fresh, nutritious food; and
WHEREAS, people choose among foods that are readily available and therefore healthy options should be at least as available and accessible as unhealthy ones; and
WHEREAS, a good mix of food retail has the potential to revitalize neighborhoods and commercial centers and improve access to a healthy diet, particularly for populations in underserved areas; and
WHEREAS, the City Council desires to promote the availability of fresh and quality foods, especially in underserved neighborhoods, by assessing the food retail environment based upon an evaluation of the subject retail landscape at the time of a zoning application; and
WHEREAS, in order that the intended purposes of the Mesquite Zoning Ordinance are best served, it has been determined necessary to amend certain language of said ordinance; and
WHEREAS, the Planning and Zoning Commission did give public notice and did hold a public hearing regarding proposed revisions and has recommended amendment of the ordinance; and
WHEREAS, the City Council did give public notice and did hold a public hearing regarding the proposed amendment.
(2) Chapter 3-500. Amend Chapter 3-500 by adding a new Section 3-510 to read as follows:
3-510 Variety stores.
A. Variety stores are prohibited unless the proposed use is located more than 5,000 feet from another variety store.
B. Incidental outdoor display is prohibited at all variety stores.
C. If located at least 5,000 feet from another variety store, this use is permitted by conditional use permit (“CUP”) only. In addition to the criteria for a CUP set forth in Section 5-303.B, when reviewing a request for CUP for a variety store use, the City Council shall consider:
- Whether the proposed variety store will likely have a detrimental impact on the development of grocery stores and other businesses that sell fresh and healthy food items in the area to be served by the proposed use.
- The availability of healthy food options in the area of the proposed use including the proximity of full-service grocery stores within one-half mile of the proposed use and effect of the use on the retail food environment index as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Whether the proposed use is within a food desert, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture at the time of application.
D. A CUP approved under this section must stipulate that a minimum of 10 percent of the floor area of the variety store must be dedicated to fresh produce, meat and dairy products.
E. A nonconforming variety store in existence on August 1, 2018, may relocate on the same parcel or within the same shopping center that it currently exists without obtaining a CUP provided the nonconforming variety store has not been terminated as provided in Section 1-304, Termination of Nonconforming Situations, of Part 1 of the zoning ordinance and the use complies with all other applicable regulations.
(3) Chapter 6-100. Amend Section 6-102 in Chapter 6-100 by adding new definitions for “grocery store” and “variety store” to read as follows:
Grocery store: A retail store where a minimum of 50 percent of the floor area or more than 25,000 square fet of floor area is devoted to food items including, but not limited to, fresh produce, fresh meats, fresh dairy products and prepackaged foods.
Variety store: A retail store that sells a wide variety of relatively small and inexpensive items, as defined by “A Planner’s Dictionary” published by the American Planning Association.